Candidates in stark contrast

Obama’s goals and record will make a stark contrast with those of Mitt Romney or whoever the GOP nominates, says John Andrews in the January round of Head On TV debates. Hardly, scoffs Susan Barnes-Gelt: Romney’s positions are vague and the overall Republican field is weak. John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over the upcoming legislative session. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Here are all five scripts for January:

1. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION YEAR – HERE GOES

Susan: The economy is beginning to recover and employment is finally going in the right direction. Obama will have a tough race this November, but so far—the Republican looks weak. If Romney is the strongest in a weak field, your party’s in trouble.

John: Romney believes in a bigger economy for all to share. Obama believes in a bigger government for all to support. Romney believes in a stronger America for the world to respect. Obama believes in a weaker America for the world to push around. It’s a very clear choice. Advantage Romney.

Susan: We don’t know what Romney believes in because—despite numerous debates—he’s failed to articulate a vision for America. Bashing the president and reciting America the Beautiful while he lies about the number of jobs he’s created and brags about firing people, is not going to win an election.

John: What you just heard, folks, is the whole Obama campaign. Throw mud, discredit the challenger. At all costs, distract the voters from the incumbent’s record of failure. It’s time again for the Reagan question: Are we better off than four years ago? We’re not, so we need a new president.

2. WHITHER THE NATIONAL WESTERN STOCK SHOW?

John: I’ve enjoyed the National Western Stock Show for over 50 years. My son and his son have enjoyed it. It’s a Colorado treasure and a Denver economic powerhouse. The Stock Show must go on, no matter what. If we can bid for the Winter Olympics, surely we can preserve the National Western.

Susan: Yes the stock show is a Denver institution. And that’s where it belongs—in Denver—central Denver. However, the 2–week event needs to become part of year–round job generating campus. 21st Century management and vision must refresh the 160 year–old institution.

John: Just so the whole thing is done with voluntary financial contributions and good old free enterprise. When you say “year–round job generating campus,” I hear boondoggles and subsidies, taxpayers on the hook and special interests at the trough. Horses and cows at the trough, fine. Special interests, no.

Susan: 95 acres in the middle of town, used less than 3 months a year – primarily for special events—is a boondoggle. The National Western notwithstanding—we’re not a cow town anymore. The site needs to generate jobs, revenue and enhanced property tax—no taxpayer bailout, buyout or bond.

3. DOES DENVER NEED AN INDEPENDENT POLICE MONITOR?

John: As the father of a police officer, I am not objective about law enforcement. It’s a good thing—hard work, dangerous work. The dedicated people who do it deserve the benefit of the doubt. Denver’s independent police monitor and oversight board are needlessly adversarial to law enforcement. Why have them at all?

Susan: A handful of rogue cops, an ineffective internal review process and a series of abusive conflicts mean citizens don’t trust the police department. That’s why Mayor Hancock took the unprecedented step of bringing in a police chief from outside the department. Accountability is key.

John: To protect public safety, we grant government a monopoly of force. To prevent tyranny and protect liberty, we have watchdogs to watch the watchers. It’s a balancing act. But the outgoing police monitor, Rosenthal, lost the balance. His call to bring in the feds, an Obama administration that’s anti-police, is wrong.

Susan: Agreed. The police dept doesn’t need a federal investigation. On the other hand, the department has been rogue since Paul Childs was murdered in 2003, I expect the new chief and manager will clean things up. But an independent monitor can give them cover and reassure the public.

4. PRIORITIES FOR LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Susan: It’s an election year for the state legislature, so we can anticipate a lot of posturing and empty rhetoric. However, Colorado faces big challenges—K–12 & higher ed funding; job creation, transportation, human services and infrastructure—to name a few.

John: Friction between, and within, the political parties makes that big agenda all the tougher this year, Susan. The top Senate Democrat, and two leading House Democrats, hope to take away GOP congressional seats. Hard feelings remain from the reapportionment battle. And bitter primaries may split the Republicans.

Susan: You’re right, John. A serious lack of leadership and vision plagues Colorado and the same lack of civility in the US Congress, is trickling down to state and local government. The unintended consequence of legislative term limits has created a revolving door for career politicians.

John: Take it from a senator who left because of term limits. The limit is a helpful safeguard against legislators settling in forever and getting captured by the system, at the expense of our liberties and our pocketbooks. If this legislature just concentrates on economic growth through free markets, I’m happy.

5. Lobato & the schools—now what?

Susan: In December a Denver judge determined Colorado’s school funding system was “irrational and inadequate.” The state Board of Ed and the governor are appealing. If the ruling holds, the cost to state taxpayers will be enormous. Though it’s tough to argue resources are adequate or equitable.

John: It’s called the Lobato case, and everyone watching better hope the Colorado Supreme Court overturns it. The ruling by Judge Sheila Rappaport points the state toward bankruptcy, and in pursuit of the impossible. Her idea of adequate school funding envisions every child above average. The constitution doesn’t require that.

Susan: The constitution requires fair and equitable. Of course you can’t legislate—or fund—equality. However, crumbling schoolhouses, insufficient digital equipment, furniture and books impact low–income districts and schools. Well–to–do districts and schools raise money from parents. Schools serving low income kids don’t have that option.

John: All the constitution requires is, quote, “thorough and uniform.” By no stretch does that justify the $3 billion budgetary hit demanded by teacher unions and rubber–stamped by the judge. America has doubled real dollars per pupil in government schools since 1970 with no gain in test scores. More spending is not the answer.

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