Head On, long a feature on TV in Denver and now presented by Centennial Institute, this month offers a friendly disagreement about whether Nancy Pelosi is one of the winners or sinners of 2010. But there is something closer to unanimity on Gov. John Hickenlooper’s continued quirkiness in 2011.
Reviewing the old year in the December round of mini–debates, John Andrews lauds the American worker while Susan Barnes–Gelt pans the Tea Party. And hold the presses—what’s this about Palin joining Obama’s cabinet?
John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over an agenda for Congress, priorities for Denver’s next mayor, and strategies for improving Colorado schools. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Here are all five scripts for December:
1. WINNERS AND SINNERS OF 2010
Susan: There is ample blame and praise to go around for the first decade of the 21st Century. Winners: Wall Street fat cats, Sarah Palin and the tea party; the national Republican Party. Sinners: fat cats, Palin, the Republican Party.
John: The decade started with New York and Washington under attack. It ended with the mistake that is Obamacare and the mediocrity that is Pelosi. Despite that we still lead the world, thanks to the American worker amidst this recession, the American voter left and right, and the American soldier sacrificing so much.
Susan: D C and Wall Street losers all came out as winners if you count the money they stashed by fleecing the American public. Pelosi is a winner, fighting hard for the American public, while Obama and the Democratic Senate played to the fat cats. Unlike Gingrich who quit when he lost the majority, she’s a winner!
John: Right. But she is the liberal gift that keeps on giving. While San Fran Nancy lingers on, though, 2010 is outta here. Departing in disappointment are Betsy Markey, John Salazar, Bernie Buescher, and Cary Kennedy. Entering the new year in glory are Hickenlooper, Bennet, Stapleton, Gessler, and Troy Tulowitzki.
2. FEARLESS PREDICTIONS FOR 2011
John: Fasten your seatbelts for a wild ride in 2011. Here are John and Susan’s fearless predictions for a year you won’t believe. TSA requires a colonoscopy for every airline passenger. Gov. Hickenlooper puts Tancredo in charge of Hispanic outreach. Carmelo Anthony leaves the Nuggets and is elected mayor in a landslide.
Susan: The über–popular John Hickenlooper sees Mr. President in the mirror after his first Democratic Governors Association meeting, and sets up a field operation in Iowa. Denver voters are so unimpressed with mayoral candidates that they unanimously elect ‘none of the above’ as mayor.
John: Also in 2011, WikiLeaks exposes the secret life of Joe Biden and nobody notices. Ex–coaches Josh McDaniels and Dan Hawkins go into witness protection. Obama sends Hillary to Afghanistan as commanding general and names Sarah Palin secretary of state to remove her from the 2012 picture. His poll numbers skyrocket.
Susan: Denver traffic engineers convert all the city’s 1–way streets to 2–way and add bus–rapid–transit to Colfax—causing Denver’s economy to boom! Someone slips truth serum in DC’s politician’s eggnog, causing nationwide voter recalls. 2011 ushers in a decade of peace, health and economic stability for man & womankind.
3. PRIORITIES FOR CONGRESS
Susan: The lame duck session needs to be euthanized! Both parties are ignoring the overwhelming best interests of the American people: jobs, jobs, jobs. Tax breaks for millionaires is a distraction. Obama must take the lead and veto any unreasonable bill.
John: Congress changing hands at the turn of the year is good news for Americans who were concerned about our country drowning in debt while government grew and liberty shrank. The Republican House needs to resist any tax increase, set about repealing Obamacare, and get tough on radical Islam.
Susan: Puuleeeze John. Americans want jobs. They want their kids to be educated and the troops, stuck in Afghanistan defending a corrupt government, to come home. The US healthcare system eats nearly 10% of the GNP—the highest in the world. We need to invest in education, infrastructure and retraining workers. Otherwise, pass the marmalade, we’re toast.
John: What Americans want was clear on election day. The Tea Party made itself heard. Taxpayers are demanding some adult leadership in Washington DC for a change. A president in over his head and a Congress out of touch paid the price. Speaker John Boehner is the new sheriff in town.
4. PRIORITIES FOR DENVER’S NEXT MAYOR
Susan: Denver’s next mayor faces challenges and opportunities. Here is my to do list: 1. Love the city and tell the truth. 2. Restore two–way traffic to all downtown streets. 3. Replace the chief of police. 4. Develop a retail strategy for the City to address declines in sales tax.
John: Better yet, a strategy for overall economic growth. The candidate who offers a vision for making Denver a magnet for jobs, innovation, and in–migration will deserve to win in a walk. Pull the plug on Hickenlooper’s tax–and–spend policies. Discourage medical marijuana. Privatize, deregulate, and restore the pride of law enforcement.
Susan: To continue—explore taking over Denver Public Schools to restore sanity and accountability. Don’t run unless you truly believe in City Building, the ability of local government to make a positive difference—and, most important, develop and articulate a vision—in short: LEAD!
John: Leadership equals taking things over, Susan? There you Democrats go again. Denver has an elected school board. Let them do their work and let the mayor do his. Economic growth, safe streets, and livable neighborhoods ought to be plenty. If only Democrats and Republicans competed for mayor.
5. BETTER SCHOOLS FOR COLORADO
John: Colorado’s billion–dollar budget deficit means that state aid to education will be cut for the second straight year. But learning performance could improve if legislators free the districts from mandates and school boards face down the teacher unions. Students in Utah achieve higher than Colorado at 60 cents on the dollar.
Susan: The issue isn’t unions or no unions—It’s hiring good teachers, paying them well and firing them if they don’t. No urban school district has the resources to educate the diversity of students who walk through the door. It’s not about mandates. It’s about ensuring every student and her family have a full range of opportunity.
John: Increased resources are impossible right now, and they aren’t the answer anyway. America’s real spending per pupil has doubled since my kids started school, with zero improvement in test scores. Education expert William Moloney says by following the example of other countries, we can have much lower budgets and much better schools.
Susan: You’re half right, John—more money in the classroom doesn’t necessarily translate to better schools. Improving the quality of teacher education and training, lengthening the school day and year are part of the puzzle. There’s not a simple answer but cutting budgets is not a magic bullet.