Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fixing the City's Budget 'fix'

Mayor Michael Hancock, hopefully with the support of council, will ask the citizens of Denver to de-Bruce our city on the November ballot as part of the strategy to meet the city's budget deficit. I predict City Council will support the Mayor in putting the ballot measure to de-Bruce before the voters. And the voters, if they vote to de-Bruce, would allow the city to keep monies(about $67 million)currently being returned to voters in the form of credits under TABOR. To de-Bruce,a proper noun turned into a verb, requires a vote of the people. While our budget shortfall is about $90 million this year, the Mayor believes that allowing the city to retain this money in the city coffers would do much to alleviate the shortfall for Denver's city libraries(allowing service levels to be returned to earlier levels)and other needed city services. I suspect lots of voters don't even realize they get these credits. I am starting a survey. I agree with the Mayor and I look forward to talking with as many voters as possible to encourage them to support this move. But a possible glitch to the strategy to fix Denver's budget shortfall surfaces. Denver Public Schools is looking at putting $500 million on the ballot at the same time the city tries to de-Bruce. Nevertheless, I look forward to talking with you about these budget changes. Sounds like someone has to start working on the 'strategy' here on these issues.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 17

I recently attended the Elder Abuse Awareness Day sponsored by Denver DA Mitch Morrissey at the Pavilion at City Park. Attendance was up from last year and while I was not on the official program, Mitch invited me to regale the crowd of 70 folks with a song. Instead of my usual Colorado Song, I asked, "Why is June 17, 1972 an important date in American history?" Only one older gentleman from Arapahoe County answered back to me, "Watergate." I gave his an auditor's round pin as a reward for remembering history. Yes, the Watergate scandal started on June 17. The headline in Washington Post of June 18 read: "5 Held in Plot to Bug Democrats' Office." I re-read it, and it was a long story. The Democrats' office was located in the fancy Watergate Apartment complex in Washington.On his rounds through the building, Guard Frank Wills saw the tape which one of the White House burglars placed over the lock of the office door. He called Washington police and they arrested the five burglars. What ever happened to Frank? In 1974 after Nixon resigned the presidency, Regis University invited Senator Sam Ervin, Democrat of North Carolina who chaired the committee to investigate the White House break ins to speak on campus. The day of the senator's speech, I was honored to host Senator Ervin for lunch at the old Bratskellar located in Larimer Square. Courtlandt Doyle, a long time Democratic activist from North Denver went with us. He thanked Senator Ervin for saving our Republic. Everybody in the place came up to thank him for what he did for the country. Courtlandt paid for the lunch. Senator Ervin who endeared himself to the nation during the Watergate hearings by whimsically referring to himself as "just a country lawyer," shared with us that he worked closely with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two reporters from the Washington Post who worked on the story which brought down Nixon, our modern day Macbeth.

Bloomsday in Denver

Since 1982, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, Denver aficionados of the works of James Joyce have been reading this prolific author. We met in the back room of Sullivan's on Court Place. Gone, alas like our youth too soon. That's when the Joyce readers founded the James Joyce Reading Society of Greater Metropolitan Denver. Eileen Niehouse played her guitar and regaled us with songs mentioned in Joyce's works. We all unanimously elected Ned Burke as President for Life. The readers elected me as Vice Chair and our secretary-treasurer was Robert Ross whose dad was born in Scotland. Joyce would have liked that. So for these past thirty years the faithful have gathered every 1st Tuesday at 7:30 pm in member's homes to read from the works of Joyce. We are plowing though the labyrinthine lines of Ulysses this year, I believe the 7th time we've read it. Ulysses contains a Denver and Colorado reference which I never noticed until Ned Burke and I were reading from this great book in the morning of June 16, now called "Bloomsday." In Leopold Bloom's visit to Night town, the red light district of Dublin in 1904, Bloom meets a sailor to tells about seeing Buffalo Bill in Stockholm. The sailor recites a two line verse: "Buffalo Bill shoots to kill. Never missed nor he never will." The sailor adds that our Buffalo Bill toured the wide world with Hengler's Royal Circus. Pity Sullivan's isn't still standing, a parking lot now. We could put a brass plaque to commemorate this remarkable founding. If you are interested in reading along with us, contact me and I will get you the schedule. Joyce would like that.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Performance Audits

At neighborhood meetings people often ask what good are performance audits? I try to explain to them that the auditing profession has changed dramatically over the years, certainly since my serving on the State Legislative Audit Committee over 49 years ago. I remind them that an old fashioned green eyeshade audit would report how much an agency was owed or how much it misspent. Important information, but more important is how to fix the problem auditors encounter in an agency. What steps and how long will it take for the agency to correct the faults? It’s sort of like holistic medicine, we want to know how the whole body is working. Is everything working together as it was intended. Lots of younger people probably don’t even remember the green eye shades accountants used to wear in black and white movies. Some auditor and accountants have a hard time getting away from the narrow focus of the green eyeshade mentality. Let me give you an example of a May performance audit of The Colorado Division of Wildlife which shows value to the taxpayers and the department audited. Auditors found that $32 million went unrecorded; checks were written and not deducted from the accounts involved; Wildlife Commissioners received confusing and mistaken fund amounts as to what was available to the agency. Because of the accounting bloopers commissioners delayed some and eliminated other programs based on faulty accounting information. No one caught the mistakes until the state auditors came in to review what was going on with the communication procedures and accounting practices. I recall the old joke accounting students at Regis University could spout after taking Fr. Joe Ryan’s accounting class. “Debits on the left, credits on the right. Debits by the windows, credits by the door.” Fray Luca Passioli, a Franciscan monk, in Florence, Italy come up with single page left/right double entry accounting in the mid-14th century. State auditors recommended the Wildlife department go back to basics in following Fray Luca’s principles. The auditors recommended better and accurate communication with commissioners to make sure they have the right figures in the many accounts under their watch. Congratulations to state auditors for an excellent performance audit. And the department agreed with the recommendations. After reading the audit, I am puzzled, however, as to why the negotiated deadline for implementing the corrections is pushed out to September 2013, 14 months away. Surely under Governor John Hickenlooper’s prodding, and with all the assistant directors helping and CFO’s chiming in like a chorus, and all those bright CPA’s marching behind, the agency folks should be able to implement the recommendations before then. Legislators on the state audit committee are skeptical if the corrections will be made. Cast a cold eye on this one. Horseman, pass by.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sister Martha Ann Koch

The Sisters of Loretto who taught for many years at Holy Family School in North Denver at 43rd and Utica Street, where Arupe Jesuit School is now, celebrate their 200th birthday this year. I want to help them celebrate. We lost a venerable member of the Loretto order, Sr. Martha Ann Koch, S. L., died peacefully at the mother house in Nerinkx, Kentucky. Sister Martha Ann taught me in seventh grade at Holy Family. Let me share two memories. We went to mass on Friday mornings and I remember in late May filing into the church. A May morning mist covered what small bits of grass covered the parking and those gray moths we have here were on the wing. In the first pew, two rows ahead of me, knelt a glimmering Grace Kelly who was rehearsing for a play at Elitch summer stock. I recall an dappled apple colored scarf encircled her golden locks like a newly minted halo. My fellow students told me I did not hear Sr. Martha click her cricket clacker which all the nuns concealed some where in the dark folds of their habits. One click meant to kneel. I confess, I did not hear the click. Every one else knelt in unison, but I stayed standing transfixed as though I was beholding a heavenly vision in Miss Kelly. Sr. Martha Ann came up the right aisle and nudged me saying, "Dennis Gallagher, you can kneel down now and concentrate on the mass please." Miss Kelly looked back at me. Her eyes flashed blue, the sacre bleu, like the blue in Mary's garment in the side altar. Miss Kelly left right after communion, probably off to rehearsal. And before she disappeared out the right side door, she turned back and smiled and winked at me and I swear she whispered, "Thank you, Dennis." She must have heard Sr. Martha's instructions about kneeling. I was always thankful to Sr. Martha for introducing me to Grace Kelly when I was in the seventh grade. Remember a few years back when I promised the people of Denver I would report on the city debt? So I relied on the CPA's who worked at the Auditor's Office to get me the figure. I thought the figure they brought to me was low, but I had been told, "you always listen to your CPA's?" I reported the debt and the figure was only off by about 10 billion dollars. You remember the papers had a field day. Headlines roared about the auditor's lost decimal point. Mine enemies chapped their lips. I walked in the valley of the shadows of those shunned. But raising my spirits from out of the depths, as in the psalm, "De profundis, clamavi ad te, Domine." Sr. Martha wrote me and said she remembered I always had trouble with those "pesky decimal points." And she added with her great humor: "but Dennis, with a 10 billion dollar mistake, shouldn't you be working for the federal government?" But not to worry she closed. Sr. Martha reminded me she "was praying for me. You will make it through this stronger than before." I hope we will celebrate Sr. Martha Ann's wonderful life of service and accomplishment on Tuesday, June 19th at the Loretto Center Chapel, 4500 South Wadsworth, 7 pm. Now Sr. Martha is praying for us all.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Elder Abuse - Do ask, Do tell

Did you know that Colorado Adult Protective Services receives 11,000 reports every year concerning seniors who are at risk for safety and well-being? Many more incidents of abuse go unreported. This issue was brought home to me when I served in our state senate a few years back. I always remember when campaigning for the house and senate when I was younger. Walking door to door in North Denver with a high percentage of older folks, each house had talk radio playing. One older constituent told me that "talk radio took away the loneliness since her husband died." Those who would abuse the older people in our city know that many older people are lonely and are vulnerable to folks who show an interest in them. Everyone can be an auditor on this issue of elder abuse. Don't be afraid to ask and don't be afraid to tell if you suspect a case of elder abuse. I am so glad that our city is sponsoring an event to raise consciousness about Elder Abuse. I hope you will join us on Friday, June 15, 2012, from 9-12 noon at beautiful City Park Pavilion. The event is entitled: "Elder Abuse Awareness Day." This will be a great chance to connect to aging services and learn how you can help with this often unnoticed issue facing older people in our city and state. Please tell your friends and neighbors about this important event. Invite the young, being old is not catching. There will be music and entertainment and I promise not to sing the Colorado song. At most that would be trying the patience of the elderly and everybody else in attendance. For more information, visit: And I want to thank Dr. Sharon Bailey of the Auditor's Office for suggesting this meeting for my calendar..

Monday, June 4, 2012

What goes around, comes around

"What goes around, comes around," an old favorite slogan of my father, certainly proved true in the flurry of publicity about Douglas Bruce's recent release from prison. Remember the first time Bruce went to jail? That was because Bruce, the reticent landlord, did not repair the basic safety and health violations raised by Denver housing code inspectors on some of his many rental units in our fair city. In the Denver Post, "Bruce complained that the jail's plumbing and heating were defective and would generate multiple code violations if the building was inspected." Mr. Bruce also railed against the prison cuisine and the picture in the papers after his release showed a crisper and leaner tax protester. Bruce's comments reminded me of an incident I encountered a few years back. An Irish Senator from County Wicklow in Ireland phoned me. He was concerned that two of his young Irish lads got caught in America with expired visas. They were immediately arrested by INS and they spent two weeks in the federal immigration jail over in East Denver. They were in jail longer than Pat Sullivan. The Irish papers had picked up the story and folks were planning demonstrations to demand "America release the Wicklow Two." He asked me to look in on them. I went to visit them, and and asked how they were doing, both responded, "we've lost almost 20 pounds." Soon to be released, I asked them if they needed anything. "Councilman Gallagher, do you know any nice American girls we could take to dinner before we get flown home?" I will not be surprised if some entrepreneur develops the "Prison Diet Plan, guaranteed to shed pounds every day." And Denver building inspectors should check out Douglas Bruce's complaints about the prison building's plumbing and heating. What's good for the goose is good for the Bruce.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Asphalt Warrior

Gary Reilly grew up in North Denver and always wanted to be a writer. He was in my brother Tim's class at Holy Family. Unfortunately Gary died last year but he left for us 11 novels, the first of which has been published by Running Meter Press. In his first novel, Asphalt Warrior, Gary tells the story of Murph the cab driver Reilly captures the vicissitudes, the rough and tumble life of cabbies here in Denver. Readers will appreciate and identify with the many experiences and folks Murph encounters while driving his cab. Former news reporter, Mark Stevens, and editorial cartoonist, Mike Keefe, have teamed up to publish Gary's book. Murph is a great character who brings his daily wages home to his apartment on Capitol Hill. He hides his hard earned money in a copy of James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. I like Murph. Murph sarcastically quips that nobody would ever steal "sunny Jim's" labyrinthine novel off the shelf of his crowded library. And the cabbies in this story do not swear. I must check that out, not sure I've ever heard a cab driver swear. Murph's girlfriend is named Mary Margaret Flaherty, and I have a cousin by that name. My brother mentioned he never told Reilly about my mom's maiden name, Flaherty. Maybe I did. Hope we'll meet Mary Margaret in the next novel. And I am sure Tattered Cover Bookstore had no idea why Tuesday, June 5th, 2012 would be a propitious night to read selections from Gary's book. But I know Gary had something to do with this. No use in being Irish, if you are not a little superstitious. Early that very evening from 4:30 to 7, from all of eternity, Venus will transit or pass in front of the sun. So after you watch Venus seductively and gracefully waltz in front of the garish sun, join us at Tattered Cover, 16th and Wynkoop to get to know Gary Reilly's Asphalt Warrior. Program starts at 7:30, please tell your friends. Be sure not to look directly at the sun, you know why.