Editor: Cliff Dodge, a former state senator from Denver and now president of the Arapahoe County Republican Men's Club, wrote this shortly before the 2012 election. It has only become more relevant since then.
Being a mere mortal, I cannot see or predict the future. Several religious sects and their leaders have tried to predict the end of civilization and life as we know it, but to no avail. On December 21st, 2011 it was predicted the world would end. I knew something was not quite right when I went to my Safeway store and a sign at the Customer Service desk, read…..The Colorado Lottery drawing will be held despite the end of the world.
Religion and politics are very different animals, however. Eight years ago a group of Colorado Democrats came together and decided that they would rather have Democrats of any and every stripe elected to the Colorado House and Senate, despite whatever their core beliefs. They tapped into the fortunes of Jared Polis, Rhett Bridges, Tim Gill and Pat Stryker, checked their egos at the door and decided to change the political landscape here in Colorado, by taking control of all of the levers of power…..the Governor’s office, the State Senate and the State House of Representatives.
Granted, as a group they overreached, and were not as disciplined as they could have and should have been, and actually lost control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 election, but by a single vote. That is a mighty slim margin to try and hold off the angry hordes at the gates.
Former State Representative Rob Witwer and former Channel 9 Political Reporter Adam Schrager detailed how all of this was accomplished in their book, The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado. Their book points out what everyone knows but pays little attention to. The Democrats created “infrastructure.” Here in Colorado a group of progressive (liberal) donors created a network of stand-alone (but working together) non-profit organizations dedicated to winning elections. The title of the group was simple enough, the Colorado Democratic Alliance.
This is old hat to many active Republican Party members. You all have heard of ProgressNow, a non-stop, 24/7/365 political machine that has a direct link to the people who decide these elections. As stated by the Huffington Post, “To ProgressNow, every day is election day.” The stable of non-profits include technology, fundraising, strategy, opposition research, legislative research, gathering e-mail addresses, newspaper clipping services, e-mail blasts, direct mail, anything and everything that a political party needs to be successful. These people hire very motivated and very smart people to create hateful ad (radio, tv, e-mail, snail-mail, etc.) and tear down Republican candidates, the Republican party, Republican core values and whatever else they decide to attack.
This all started a number of years ago, but it continues to build and grow and is becoming progressively more destructive. The following chart was printed in the Denver Post on October 22nd. Even a cursory glance will tell you what you need to know regarding the effectiveness of the opposition.
J. Paul Brown
Tony Exum Sr.
According to the story in the Denver Post, in 2010 Democrat super PACs – or independent expenditure committees – outspend Republicans nearly 150-1 and won 17 of 24 races they targeted with that money.
This year the two top races noted in the chart above are instructive. Two groups, The Coalition for Colorado’s Future and the Community Information Project have spent more than $ 725,000 supporting Democratic Costilla County Commissioner Crestina Martinez, who is running against Republican Larry Crowder, a farmer and rancher. In contract, GOP backed PACs have contributed $ 28,925 into this race. Martinez’s candidate committee has raised $ 125,000 nearly twice the amount Crowder has.
Three independend expenditure groups have poured $ 230,698 into the race to unseat Republican Representative J. Paul Brown, who is being challenged by Democrat Mike McLachlan. Brown is one of three GOP incumbents specifically targeted by Fight Back Colorado for opposing civil unions. The other two targets are incumbent Republican Reps. Robert Ramirez of Westminster and Cindy Acree of Aurora.
The 527 groups backing Democrats have raised $ 5.6 million this cycle. When I ran for the Colorado State House in 1976 our campaign in South Denver raised $ 6,000 dollars, which I considered :big money” in those days.
So, what are we looking at? If things continue as they are now constituted, Republican candidates will not even be in the game. ProgressNow has changed everything. These people are united in one goal…..control the levers of power in Colorado and govern accordingly. And its not just here, it is spreading to other states because of the success of the program here in Colorado.
One of the major Democrat points is that the Republican Party is the party of the rich. However, the facts tend to somewhat blur this line of argument. Why are we teetering on the brink of losing the one majority we still control, the state House of Representatives. A look at the chart will probably convince you that all is not well and we may again become the minority party.
Politics is a contact sport. Yes, this is a rough business, just ask any of our candidates who are being pounded daily by biased and unfair (untrue) mailings, radio and television/cable ads, blog posts, and every other means of communication. It is time to stop the bleeding.
A Plan of Action:
Create an umbrella group to manage the organization, and be accountable for the funds. The individuals selected to oversee the growth and development will have but one goal, the elect Republicans and defeat Democrats. A management group could be put together from the following list of potentials (or others):
Bill Armstrong Pat Grant Tom Norton Roy Palmer
Steve Durham Bob Beauprez John Andrews Bob Kirscht
Jane Norton Sandy Drago Monica Owens Lynne Cottrell
Mike Beasley Ben Campbell Mark Hillman Cliff Dodge
Frank DeFilippo John Tipton John Zakhem Tom Tancredo
Toni Winchester Cindy Acree Debbie Brown Jon Caldera
Volunteer Gathering Committee
Technology Committee (On line fundraising, messaging, etc.)
Legislative Research Committee
Opposition Research Committee
House Elections Committee
Senate Elections Committee
Direct Mail Committee
Media Committee (earned-paid)
I am sure there are more areas of interest that will need to be examined and created. This is off the top of my head, so much more diligent work is needed before such a project can be undertaken.
In order to be successful a budget must be established. I believe this to be in the neighborhood of $6 million to create the infrastructure, hire the staff, the equipment, etc., and begin the preparation…. and be ready for the next election cycle.
The bottom line: We need to compete fiscally, organizationally, and strategically if we are to prevent the Republican Party from becoming a permanent minority party and being totally irrelevant.
The first step is to take the first step. Let’s hold an organizational meeting and begin the process.
Imagine with me, if you will, the jaw-clenching sadness I felt this week when I learned that my state, Colorado, was the second happiest amongst all the states. According to a Gallup Poll, which looked at the “emotional and physical health of residents in every state, it found only Hawaii was a happier place.”
This news put me in a funk. I used to be happy as a lark. Now I’m cranky as a crow. I used to stride with pride, my shoulders thrown back in a devil-may-care-atta-dude, and a smile as wide as the Rocky Mountains. But, now no longer. Now my smile is tentative as Mona Lisa. For you see, I and my fellow Coloradans are just second best. Up until now, we didn’t know. I mean, who knew? We thought we were most happy. Apparently, we lived in ignorant glee. Now, we’re bummed. After all, who remembers who came in second? To the victor go the spoils and all that such.
So Hawaiians must be leaping for joy. In Colorado, we’ve tempered our Joie de Vivre. Our leaps have slowed to a skip.
At first I was incredulous. The news brought a scowl to my once-happy face. How could the people of this Johnny-come-lately – the last state to join our Union be so unctuous? How could the citizens who live on that discombobulated group of land pods pull it together to be so happy?
On further review, I discovered how Hawaii might have won this happy title. The islands are beautiful, I must admit, and they are surrounded by the calm warm waters of the Pacific. Our state is divided by the majestic and often cold Rocky Mountains. They have beaches and sand. We have snow and only for part of the year. They drink Mai Tai’s there laced with rum and pineapple juice. We drink tepid beer from Rocky Mountain spring water. If you’re gonna get happy, a Mai Tai will get you there a lot faster. Hawaiians enjoy a melodic native language. Even saying “Merry Christmas” in Hawaiian sounds happier: Mele Kalikimaka. Puts a smile on your face doesn’t it? The Hawaiian Christmas Song was also made famous by Bing Crosby.
Our theme song was written by John Denver about being Rocky Mountain High which has taken on new meaning of late with Colorado’s legalization of marijuana.
Hawaii’s Governor is Neil Abercrombie. Sounds normal doesn’t it? Ours is John Hickenlooper, a bumpy name that doesn’t easily roll off the tongue and is one which headline writers gleefully like to shorten to “Hick.”
Hawaii claims to have had a president born there. We have Tom Tancredo.
Hawaiians are a genial sort and greet you with a gladsome “Aloha.” We greet visitors with a growl and the warning “Don’t Californicate Colorado” followed by a silly grin that can be interpreted as “Don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out, y’all.”
It is, indeed, a sad day for Coloradans, especially now that we’ve been told we’re not so happy. We no longer live in a state of contentment. We might as well be living in Mudville. So the next time you see me, I won’t be wearing my usual happy-go-lucky smile. I won’t be bubbling over with joy. You won’t see my usual jaunty step, or my intoxicating zesty eyes. No, from now on I’ll be simply contrite, wearing a forced look of bemusement on my face. You want happy? Go pound some sand.
After this gloomy news, I’ve decided I need a change in attitude, and maybe a change in latitude, to borrow a phrase. Think I’ll book a trip to Hawaii. I could use a Mai Tai about now.
(Denver Post, Dec. 29) Unlike Washington, DC, where divided government will continue in 2013, the new year in Colorado will bring a return of unified control by Democrats. On Jan. 9, Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) takes the speaker’s gavel from Rep. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch), whose GOP majority was ousted by voters in November.
If you visit the state House that day, you’ll notice that Democrats are mostly seated to the Speaker's left, Republicans mostly to the right. The custom dates from the French Revolution, when legislators enthusiastic for political activism massed on the left side of the chamber, while those more skeptical massed opposite them.
As Ferrandino assumes power alongside incoming Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, Colorado’s party of the left has another chance to show what it can do with dominance under the Gold Dome, an advantage Dems last enjoyed in 2007-2011. My housewarming gift, as a friendly opponent, is a memo from voters they probably didn’t persuade this time.
Colorado Christian University, where I work, polled some 1300 Coloradans shortly before the 2012 election with an automated phone survey by SmartVoice.com. We went for a center-right sample, with 44% of respondents self-described as conservative and 30% as moderate. Their views on the role of government may help caution Democrats against overreach while providing Republicans a roadmap to relevance.
The CCU-SmartVoice poll asked about the best way of fostering prosperity, protecting liberty, helping the less fortunate, improving the schools, and encouraging people to treat each other decently. That is, most of what we want in living together. In prioritizing what civil society can do voluntarily, over what activist government might promise, respondents reminded us the left isn’t the whole ballgame – not yet, at least.
What’s the key factor in higher living standards? Free enterprise, said 45% of center-right Coloradans. Better education was next with 38%. Government programs were named by only 9%.
What’s most important in improving America as a free society? “Revival of our founding principles,” said 54% of poll respondents. Federal, state, and local government were named by 28%. Just 18% chose “progressive reform like most other countries.”
What factor matters most in providing for children, the elderly, and the disabled, the poll also asked. Families and churches were cited by 46% of those polled, voluntary private charity by another 18%. Only about one respondent in three, 36%, said government programs matter most.
The citizens typified in this particular survey obviously weren’t the voting majority that gave Democrats a 37-28 edge in the Colorado House. But Speaker Ferrandino would be unwise to ignore them if he seeks to govern with broad consensus. And House Minority Leader Mark Waller (R-Colorado Springs) should forcefully advocate for them during the upcoming session.
The teachers-union agenda, for example, calls for raising taxes by a billion dollars and softening tests, while blocking vouchers and charter schools. But the center-right agenda for education, as reflected in CCU’s poll, finds parental choice prioritized by 42% and higher standards by another 27%, whereas more spending is favored by only 31%. Jam-downs from the left will backfire.
Culture warriors on both sides, meanwhile, should take pause from the survey finding on how best to ensure decent treatment of one another. A mere 7% of respondents said it’s up to laws and government. Eighty-three percent said they’d rather look to families, churches, and schools for keeping America morally strong.
Polls can mislead, of course. Remember the statistician who drowned while wading across a lake that was an average of 18 inches deep. Our center-right survey respondents were older, more religious, and more female than Coloradans overall. But they count as much as their leftist neighbors – and one day they’ll be in the majority again.
(Denver Post, Feb. 26) "An empty taxi drove up to 10 Downing Street,” joked Winston Churchill about the man who defeated him for prime minister in 1946, “and out of it stepped Clement Attlee.” Droll, but Attlee laughed last. Nothing succeeds like success.
Detractors who grumble that there is “no there, there” in John Hickenlooper’s remarkable political winning streak, have to admit the same thing about his long-running popularity as Mayor of Denver and now Governor of Colorado: voters just like the guy.
The latest indication of Hick’s undiminished moxie was an odd little news item the other day, in which Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a Republican, hinted at a 2014 gubernatorial bid – but only if Hickenlooper, the Democratic incumbent, were to decline a second term as did his predecessor, Bill Ritter. To which the Gov’s office replied, in substance, fat chance.
The upcoming TBD Project, 120 townhall meetings around the state with private funding of $1.2 million, shows again how Hickenlooper has raised amiable vagueness to an art form. He says TBD stands for “To Be Determined,” an open invitation for citizens to help set the state’s priorities – and bristles at the GOP gibe that it’s really code for “Taxed by Democrats.” The very idea!
Cruising toward halftime in his four-year term, the canny Hick is still not ready to roll out an agenda. No hurry, we’ll just travel the counties and see what folks scribble on our whiteboard. If Christo can take till 2015 to drape the river, the administration’s big push on education, transportation, corrections, and fiscal reform needn’t start yet either. Get reelected, then get serious.
On what record, you ask, would the governor campaign, given his underwhelming accomplishments to date? That’s the interesting thing about being Colorado’s chief executive. Constitutionally the position is so weak – the executive branch being split among four elected offices, the legislative branch having dominance on spending, and the voters controlling taxes and debt under TABOR – that an incumbent can win again just by managing the atmospherics and avoiding blunders.
It worked exactly this way for all of the successful governors in the state’s modern era (since terms went from two years to four in 1962). The Republican John Love and the Democrats Dick Lamm and Roy Romer each won three terms. Republican Bill Owens was easily reelected once and then term-limited. Democrat Bill Ritter, dogged by scandal and done after one, is the exception who proves the rule.
Don’t misunderstand: Love, Lamm, Romer, and Owens were all surehanded leaders and formidably skilled politicians. (Gov. Romer, of course, trounced me in our 1990 contest.) I’m merely saying that if you look for their monumental legacies or enduring policy victories, there weren’t many.
Romer did get DIA built, though Mayor Federico Pena’s name is on the approach road, and he passed the CSAP legislation, though education is little the better for it. Owens pushed T-REX to completion, though congestion persists, and he signed voucher legislation, though judges then annulled it. Lamm ran off the Winter Olympics – though before he became governor – and now we may host them anyway.
Governing our state or any other state simply doesn’t lend itself to transformative Obama-style grandiosity – which from my conservative viewpoint is a good thing. The Hippocratic caution in public policy, “First do no harm,” is hard enough to uphold. Deliver that and we’re grateful, would be the sentiment of most Americans in what is still a center-right nation.
Today’s superstar governors elsewhere – Chris Christie in New Jersey, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Bobby Jindal in Louisiana – became such by tackling Augean messes, not by peddling utopian dreams. Colorado, for all its problems, is in no such crisis, thank goodness. If the empty gimmickry of John “TBD” Hickenlooper has an upside, that’s it.
(Denver Post, Nov. 27) “Thanksgiving and Christmas 2011, now those were tough times. The House and Senate couldn’t agree on raising taxes. Denver and Aurora couldn’t agree on the Stock Show.
“Democrats couldn’t get excited about Obama. Republicans couldn’t get excited about anyone. It was grim, I tell you. Worse than 1933, with unemployment over 20%, Hitler and Stalin menacing Europe.
“Worse than 1942, with the world in flames, the Allies beset by Germany and Japan. Worse than 1968, with assassinations, race riots, failed presidencies, antiwar marches.
“No, youngsters, none of those dark days compared with the year we lost Steve Jobs. Elway was dissing Tebow. Big Air was cancelled. Black December, we called it. Be grateful you weren’t born yet.”
Will Grandpa be narrating such melodrama by a Colorado fireside decades from now? Hardly. So why the long face? We’ve survived worse than this. Purpose and grit will get us through. Coloradans have backbone. Our best days are ahead, there’s no doubt of it.
Yet four out of five Americans in a recent poll said the country is now in decline. Maybe we are beginning to see ourselves as a people that things happen to, rather than what we’ve historically been since Pilgrim times – a people who make things happen. It’s a huge difference; and fortunately, it’s still our choice.
Local reaction to failure of the congressional “supercommittee” to reach a deficit-reduction agreement, as reported last week by the Denver Post, portrayed Colorado as an almost helpless dependent of the federal budget. The state will be a less desirable place to live in dozens of ways, one gathered, if spending growth slows down to keep America from a Greek-style fiscal collapse. Woe is us.
The obvious rejoinder is twofold, it seems to me. First, let’s have some perspective here. Spending growth HAS to slow. Barreling along on the current unsustainable path is not an option. It would make all 50 of the states a worse place to live.
Second, since the budget binge is clearly ending, deal or no deal, let’s make a virtue of necessity and get busy positioning Colorado for greater economic self-sufficiency. The time should come when we’re NOT a groveling client of the Beltway. How about both parties in the legislature and the Hickenlooper administration vying to outdo each other on reforms toward that goal, come January?
New Year’s confetti will hardly be swept up, of course, when presidential politics goes white-hot with caucuses and primaries, Colorado included. Some say that movement on policy will then halt because of election-year posturing. But considering our state’s particular leverage in the 2012 race, why do we have to accept that?
We’ll not only be a battleground state again as we were in 2008. This time, Colorado could play the decisive role that Florida played in 2000. Strategists on both sides have spun out scenarios in which our nine electoral votes tip the balance of 269 to elect the incumbent or the challenger. (Lucky we stayed off the National Popular Vote bandwagon.)
So we will have, to put it mildly, the respectful attention of both Obama and his opponent – Romney, Gingrich, or whoever – all the way to November. As individual voters and especially through our organized groups, we should be thinking about what we want from them. I don’t mean our selfish wants, but our agenda for the civic good, for America’s renewal.
Our state is being paid yet another compliment, if you can call it that, as pundits left and right predict that the “fear and loathing” attack campaign Obama used to rescue Sen. Michael Bennet’s reelection here in 2010 will become his own national theme against the GOP in 2012. If true, too bad. Such scaremongering demeans our intelligence and our backbone. Will Coloradans stand for it? Stay tuned.
(Denver Post, Aug. 28) I wish Tom Tancredo was Governor of Colorado. I wish Scott McInnis was. Heck, I wish the ill-starred Dan Maes was governor. Any Republican, any conservative, rather than the limousine liberal Democrat we’re stuck with, John Hickenlooper.
Whence these idle fantasies? Not heat stroke from recent egg-frying temperatures. Not oxygen deprivation from my annual 14er climb. No, it started when I found myself seated between Tancredo and McInnis at a GOP luncheon on Aug. 10, the anniversary of Scott’s shocking loss to Maes in last year’s gubernatorial primary.
Tancredo, you remember, was so sure neither man could beat Hickenlooper that he demanded both quit – then bolted and ran as the American Constitution Party nominee. The final numbers in a campaign most of us would like to forget were Hick 51%, Tank 37%, and Maes 11%. Ouch.
Someone said this luncheon was the first time Scott and Tom, formerly congressional colleagues, had seen each other since then. Nothing untoward occurred, and the occasion went in the file drawer of funny coincidences. But that awful August flashback got me wondering whether our party has learned enough from its debacle in 2010 to count on carrying Colorado in 2012.
My daydream of reclaiming the governorship isn’t on tap next year – perhaps just as well, since the GOP has lost five straight contests since 2004 for that seat and for U.S. Senate. So coloring the state a Republican red again in 14 months would mean winning the Colorado House and Senate, keeping or improving our 4-3 edge in congressional seats, and above all, delivering nine electoral votes against President Barack Obama.
Can the Grand Old Party do that? Part of the answer will depend on organizational and fundraising efforts by young state chairman Ryan Call, elected last winter after veteran chairman Dick Wadhams stood down. Part will depend on conservatives and moderates (like the two dozen ex-legislators from both camps at the luncheon) transcending our differences to unify in defeating Democrats.
On those fronts, prospects seem good. On others, however, work is needed. After Call’s luncheon speech, Tancredo queried him about efforts on the right to match CoDA, the Colorado Democracy Alliance of nonprofit groups outside formal party ranks that has given the left such an advantage here in every cycle from 2004 to 2010. Nobody claims that one is solved yet.
A few days later, in a column for World Net Daily, Tancredo asked another tough but fair question: Do Republicans here and elsewhere really want to be “the party of constitutional liberty – or merely the ‘other’ party, the party of slower drift into socialism instead of the passionate embrace of socialism offered by the Obama Democrats”?
The Colorado House under GOP control this year, Tom went on to say, missed its opportunities for “connecting state Democrats to Obama’s policies” by offering a “coherent alternative” that would “reverse course” on such issues as health care, regulation, and taxes.
Speaker Frank McNulty, nursing a 33-32 majority, would doubtless disagree. But there’s a case to be made that voters will need to see more evidence of a rising red tide in policy under the Gold Dome next January if they are to move the state out of the blue column next November.
Then there’s the Tea Party. Dan Maes, hapless novice that he was, turned the best phrase of 2010 in pleading to “introduce the institution to the revolution” and thus cement a Colorado conservative majority. Wrong messenger, right message.
Maes told me last week he sees Chairman Call and other Republicans making progress on allying with this potent new force for freedom and responsibility. Will it work? “The jury is out,” said Dan. On such an alliance, more than any other factor, the red-state hopes for 2012 will turn.
 The column as published in the Denver Post erroneously stated that Call's candidacy "moved... Wadhams to retire." In fact, however, Wadhams dropped his bid for another term prior to Call's entering the chairman's race. I regret the misstatement.
(Denver Post, Jan. 9) “Yesterday, upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish, I wish he’d go away.” The little poem from a century ago should haunt Colorado’s new governor and legislature as they climb the Capitol steps and set to work this week.
John Hickenlooper is shrewdly adding Republicans as well as fellow Democrats to his cabinet, but no one has been appointed from the Tea Party. Speaker Frank McNulty, reclaiming a GOP majority for the first time since 2004, will preside over a House of 33 R’s, 32 D’s, and no T’s. Senate President Brandon Shaffer enjoys an opposite and more comfortable margin of 20 D’s, 15 R’s, and again, zero T’s.
So what? This is our state’s two-party system in the same seesaw of power we’ve known since 1876 – politics as usual. These are politically unusual times, however. The men and women who aren’t there under the gold dome in 2011, but whom our elected leaders can’t afford to ignore, are the Tea Party insurgents of the past two years.
Fewer than half of Colorado’s eligible voters turned out last November. The half that stayed home were not all Tea Partiers, of course. T’s came out in large numbers to help Republicans take the state House, unseat two Democrats from Congress, and support Tom Tancredo or Dan Maes for governor. Yet the fact remains that as campaigning now gives way to governing, T’s have no formal seat at the table. So it’s insiders beware.
The late Bill Buckley allowed LBJ only about a week in office before announcing in his magazine: “National Review’s patience with the Johnson administration is exhausted.” The Tea Party, a movement of hard-working Americans fed up with over-spending and over-government, is THAT impatient with politicians of both parties. You can imagine them sending Valentines such as these to the power-brokers at 200 E. Colfax:
“Dear Gov. Hickenlooper: No doubt you’re a good guy to have a beer with, though the motor scooter is a bit effete. But for now, forget the image stuff, park your presidential ambitions, and get the economy roaring again. Go after the unions and the spenders like you were Chris Christie. We’re dying out here. Love, Adams County.”
“Dear President Shaffer: What’s with you proposing to make it harder for us to change the state constitution? The constitution belongs to us, not to you and the other suits. Try reading it on opening day, the way Congress did. Then try again on fixing PERA, before it bankrupts the state. Respectful but steamed, Grand Junction.”
“Dear Speaker McNulty: You must have been quoted wrong about not repealing Ritter’s car tax, that outrageous affront to TABOR. When one of your members said the revenue is needed, you woodshedded him, right? Can a couple hundred of us come see you in the Old Supreme Court some afternoon? Patriotically, Pueblo.”
“Dear Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp: Please fire up your caucus to fight harder than last year against the Obama transformation agenda on things like energy and health care. The GOP is Colorado’s best hope of not turning into California or Greece, but if you don’t show us more, a bunch of us are outta here. Worried in Widefield.”
“Dear House Minority Leader Sal Pace: Ouch, a few dozen votes in the Ramirez race and you could have been Speaker. For 2012, instead of lurching left with labor, why not become a fiscal hawk, a Dick Lamm-style Democrat? We can be had. Available in Arvada.”
Government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem. So said Reagan 30 years ago this month, and the Tea Party believes it is even truer today. If Colorado’s bipartisan establishment doesn’t pay heed, it will pay dearly.
('76 Contributor) I have often wondered what propels the Douglas County economy and enables it to be the 8th most affluent and highly educated county in the United States. Many believe that the engine of growth was real estate development or big box retailing. Maybe, but a recent project I managed suggests a labor force concentrated in the health care field is the real underlying strength of the local economy. Over the past two months I have been organizing the State of Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agency's lists of licensed health providers into a computerized data base and it has led to some startling revelations.
The magnitude and velocity of growth in the far south suburban area over the past 30 years boggles the mind. In 1965, a 20-foot wall of water rushed down from the Palmer Divide through both Plum and Cherry creeks and wiped a clean slate through the County all the way to the South Platte River. By 1976, sod farms had replaced cattle grazing and there were all of 4800 telephones listed in a Castle Rock phone book that also included Elbert County. The 1976 death of Gerald Phipps, owner of Highlands Ranch and the place for James Michener's book Centennial, also set the stage for Mission Viejo, later Shea, to develop a planned community. In reviewing the 1976 phone book you could count all the doctors, dentists and pharmacists in the area on the fingers of both your hands. Douglas County, according to the latest Census Bureau American Community Survey now has a labor force of 151,000 and a total population of over 270,000. At 14%, the health care workforce is slightly more than 21,000 workers ranging from physicians to therapists . But, the impact on the economy is far greater since thousands of Front Range health care workers live in Douglas County and commute into the urban core. My assessment of the economic impact of health care suggests it has now become the economic engine of Douglas County for the 21st Century. The median household income in Douglas County is over $100,000. In Denver that number is only $44,000 and in rural Costilla County in the San Luis Valley, where settlement first occurred in Colorado median household income is a mere $19, 500.
The building of three major hospitals in the southern suburbs over the past ten years--Littleton, Sky Ridge and Parker Adventist, has come at a time when hospitals in the urban core, such as Children’s, University, and the VA have also pulled up stakes and left for the suburbs. Mercy Medical Center closed and all the remaining hospitals in Denver are left with deteriorating demographic and the need to rebuild their facilities.
From that original baker’s dozen of health care providers back in 1976, Douglas County has grown to where it has now has over 800 physicians and P.A.s, 300 Dentists, 600 pharmacists and nearly 1,000 occupational, physical, massage and respiratory therapists. There may be as many as 5,000 nurses and 3,000 mental health workers living in the area. By the year 2020, I estimate there will be nearly 100,000 health care workers in the suburban corridor ring south and east of the boundaries of the City of Denver. The shift in demographics and the growth of health care as a suburban industry has devastating consequences for Denver as a city. Denver seems to have irreversibly lost health care and the suburbs have gained.
Francis M. Miller is the past vice chairman of the Colorado Health Data Commission and a health economist. In 2011 he will publish a Colorado Health Care Atlas of his findings from this project. You can watch its development on www.healthsmartco-op.com.
('76 Editor) My column yesterday, two posts below this one, didn't have room for several important quotes from sources I talked to. I will add them here. First, as a valuable reference, don't miss Isaac Smith's comprehensive bibliography of published material about the Colorado Democracy Alliance and related groups. It's a sort of election transparency primer, which Smith has authorized Centennial Institute to release for the first time. Election Transparency - A Primer Naturally I approached Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer, since they literally wrote the book on this whole thing. Schrager declined to comment for the record, other than referring me to a buzz in the left blogosphere last month about what is being called "the Western Firewall," a Democrat-saving difference from the Rockies to the Pacific. But when I put this question to Witwer -- "How did the 2010 election results verify or modify your analysis of new political realities as presented in The Blueprint"? -- he replied as follows:
The 2010 elections show that all the advertising in the world doesn't add up to much if the infrastructure isn't there to support it. Campaign finance reform all but killed political parties, and the infrastructure they once provided is now being outsourced to nonprofit organizations. Colorado Democrats figured that out earlier, and have implemented it more effectively, than their GOP counterparts. Here in Colorado, Democrats withstood the national tidal wave and saved the top two prizes: the U.S. Senate and Governor's seats. They also held on to their majority in the state Senate. 2010 was never going to be a good year for Colorado Democrats, but with superior infrastructure and a relentless ground game, they minimized their losses -- and pulled off an upset or two in the process. To win in the twenty-first century, you need a thriving network of nonprofits to build the kind of infrastructure necessary to sustain a succesful political movement. All the TV ads in the world won't help if your side doesn't have a political infrastructure in place. TV just isn't enough anymore, and heavy spending on ads quickly reaches the point of diminishing returns. To win, you need a network of coordinated groups to provide a social media presence, thorough opposition research, a campaign of non-stop pressure on the mainstream media, databases full of detailed information on voters, and an army of door-to-door vote-getters.
On the CoDA side, mastermind Mike Huttner would not go on record either, asking me to work instead with Kjersten Forseth, who recently took over for him as interim executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, the granddaddy of all infrastructure groups. I'll quote my exact query as put to her by phone and then by email, to show how specific I was inviting her to be -- and then her admirably robotic, terse and utterly uninformative reply. These people are drilled!
Andrews: On page 208 of "The Blueprint" by Schrager and Witwer, they quote Mike Huttner as saying: "I believe Colorado's progressive infrastructure will work as a buttress [against] the potential tidal wave against Democrats in November." So my question to you is, did that indeed occur to the benefit of Bennet, the state Senate, and the Perlmutter race? If so, what specifically provided the benefit? And what role did the progressive infrastructure play in bringing to light McInnis's problems, thus throwing the GOP nomination to Maes?
Forseth: ProgressNow Colorado had a very successful year exposing candidates' extreme positions and actions. ProgressNow cut though the political rhetoric and backpedaling so voters were able to make informed decisions about their candidates.
Mark Hillman, the former state senator and treasurer who is now Colorado's Republican National Committeeman, had this to say:
The recent election verified that CODA is invested for the long-haul. Just as they seek to maximize Democrat gains in favorable years, their strategy is to minimize Democrat losses in unfavorable elections, like 2010. CODA had far more influence on the 2010 election than either the Democrat or Republican state parties. Wealthy Democrats, labor unions and trial lawyers are committed for the long-haul and it's paying off. Republicans can't be competitive year in and year out unless business leaders and wealthy donors are willing to make that same commitment.
Finally, an experienced GOP player and observer, speaking on background, reinforced much of what Hillman and Witwer had said, when he wrote to me as follows:
At the statewide level, we remain too dependent upon an impotent, irrelevant State Party for basic functions and messaging. The Dems abandoned their Party a decade ago and ran everything through the unions and interest groups. If you ask a high-level Dem when was the last time that the Democratic Party ran its own GOTV effort, he'll say they never did. It was always the unions.
But it's notable that our state legislative leadership made gains for the past two cycles (net +1 in 2008 and +7 in 2010). The House has done particularly well, gaining 8 seats since 2008. That kind of success for the Dems from 2000-2004 was national news, but our gains are practically unreported in comparison. The bottom line is that it took us 4 years to figure out how the Dems play in legislative races post-Amendment 27, and now our House leaders know what to do to be successful and have shown repeated success for the first time in over a decade. By comparison, it seems Senate leaders still have some learning to do. They aren't raising as much money, they are in-fighting, and they spread their money too thinly over five districts. McNulty, enroute to becoming Speaker-elect, raised the money, and only invested in a race when he knew he had enough money to fully compete.
Friday, 3 December 2010 09:14 by Admin
Colorado's second straight year of inevitable cuts in state aid to education can become an opportunity to improve learning performance while shedding needless costs, according to a policy brief from the Centennial Institute, Colorado Christian University's think tank. The paper is online here: Centennial Policy Brief No. 2010-2 "Much Better Schools on Much Lower Budgets: A Primer for Colorado Policymakers" draws on proven models for achieving more with less, from schools across the country and around the world. "Our state has massive cost inefficiencies and educational deficiencies within the structure of K-12 education, built up over decades and crying out for correction," says the author. Over $1 billion must be cut from projected spending in order to balance the 2011-2012 budget. Students in neighboring Utah, the paper points out, significantly outperform Colorado students on the respected NAEP test, even though Utah's spending per pupil is only 61 cents on the dollar compared to Colorado's. Denver parochial schools succeed better with minority youngsters than nearby public schools, at just 55 cents on the dollar. Looking abroad, we see education systems from Canada to Korea to Germany far exceeding the United States in academic achievement at 30% lower cost. The paper is organized in Q&A format around 20 concise topics, starting with "Admit: The US trails woefully in global rankings," running through "See why the teaching profession has faltered" and "Realize school funding is bloated, not starved," and concluding with recommendations to "Legislate boldly in 2011." William J. Moloney, former Colorado Education Commissioner with a lifetime of school experience in a half-dozen other states and countries, authored the policy brief in consultation with a panel of educators, legislators, and budget experts. "It is in our power to fix what is broken; all that's needed is the political will," Moloney writes in the introduction. "There will never be a more opportune moment to break out of the old paradigm." He calls on the General Assembly to reinterpret Amendment 23's factor formulas in line with budget realities; offer local school districts a timeout from costly mandates, accreditation, and testing; allow schools to outsource many functions; encourage charters, vouchers, and tax credits; and defuse PERA's "pension time bomb." John Andrews, director of the Centennial Institute, says in an editor's note that when Moloney warned some weeks ago about Colorado public education becoming one of several "metastasizing entitlements that have reached a point of absolute unsustainability," defenders of the education status quo replied in print with emotion, not logic. They deemed the former commissioner's analysis "offensive to educators" -- without attempting to refute it factually. (Denver Post, Oct. 3 and Oct. 14, 2010.) In releasing the policy brief today, Andrews commented: "Centennial Institute and Bill Moloney will be working actively with legislators of both parties to help translate this new paradigm into budgetary solutions. With or without cooperation from teacher unions and the education lobby, the state's dire fiscal condition is forcing policymakers to think way outside the box -- and that's good news for ill-served Colorado schoolchildren."