Thursday, October 18, 2018

Colorado Takes on Redistricting – KOA Radio

The Colorado State Legislature referred two constitutional measures to the ballot: Amendment Y Congressional Redistricting and Amendment Z State Legislative Redistricting. KOA Radio anchors Marty Lenz and Ed Greene talked about Colorado’s ballot proposals. A few points made in the interview:
Marty Lenz and Ed Greene
  • Changes to the process of redistricting are very important to the politics of the state. It will influence which party controls the legislature, and in 2022, it could decide which party has the best chance to win Colorado’s new 8th Congressional District.
  • America has been concerned about the fairness of redistricting since its founding. Gerrymandering has been and still is controversial. In Colorado, out of the current seven congressional districts, only one appears competitive – the 6th CD of Mike Coffman – in the metro area. All the rest, Democrats DeGette, Polis and Perlmutter or Republicans Buck, Lamborn and Tipton have not been closely challenged in elections for most of their careers.
  • In the State Legislature, only 4 or 5 districts in the 35-person State Senate are considered competitive.
  • The main goal of the measures is to reduce partisanship in the drawing of new maps after the census and add competition between the parties as one of the criteria the new commissioners should consider. The two measures were put on the ballot by the leadership of both parties and the members of both houses. The major interest groups that advocate reform are on board and there doesn’t appear to be engaged opposition.
  • The proposals are complex, taking 22 pages of the War and Peace length, 65-page Blue Book. The three main goals are to reduce the partisanship among map drawers by allowing retired judges to pick people from applicants, with some people put on the panel by random draw. A non-partisan staff is supposed to assist.
  • Rules to increase transparency with open records, open meetings and lobbyists having to register were added.
  • Finally, after the normal criteria for drawing districts, such as equal population and voting rights, be as compact as reasonable, and preserve communities of interest (cities, communities, etc.) where possible, they will attempt to maximize competitive districts.
  • The whole effort ends with a Supreme Court review for possible “abuse of discretion” in applying the criteria.
  • Opponents complain the process is too complex, the criteria too vague and opaque, and it won’t really remove partisan preferences.
These two reapportionment measures are likely to pass.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Lock Him Up

Although President Trump likes the rally chant, “lock her up,” aimed at women he finds irritating, such as Hillary Clinton and Dianne Feinstein, it’s Trump who may be locked up (figuratively) after November 6. History and polls confirm what Trump himself argues, this midterm election is all about Trump. And, if Democrats take the House, they will have a mandate to restrain what I call the “Authoritarian Presidency” (see blog Authoritarian Presidency).

Trump’s and the Republicans’ main election weakness is the desire of a plurality of voters to put up restraints on his presidency, not encourage it. Of course, that corresponds to decades of experience where it’s the out-of-power party that is most motivated to containing newly elected presidents, such as Ronald Reagan in 1982, Bill Clinton in 1994 and Barack Obama in 2010.

The second problem for Republican candidates is that the swing voters who have reservations about Trump aren’t in a revolt over policy, but his personality. In other words, citing accomplishments and the great economy is undermined by his relentless disruption of the status quo and need for attention expressed in endless commentary, interviews, announcements and tweets (72% say he Tweets too much, 58% of Republicans, Politico, 5-18)

Hence, the 2018 midterm is either going to be an extraordinary victory for Trump if the Democrats fail to take the House or the beginning of “locking him up.”

Q: Would you rather see the next Congress controlled by the Democrats, to act as a check on Trump, or controlled by the Republicans to support Trump’s agenda? (ABC News/Washington Post)

Q: [Respondents who disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job, N=499] Is your disapproval of Trump’s job so far driven more by the positions he takes on issues or more by his personality and leadership qualities? (CNN/SSRS)

See Politico: Poll: Trump’s tweets damage the nation

Friday, October 12, 2018

Ballot Clutter

The Blue Book just arrived. Voters are staring at 65 pages of small print and very legalistic language (plus more – 15 pages of material on judges).

Colorado leaders were hoping that the newly adopted Amendment 71 would constrain the flow of initiatives, but the ballot is as cluttered as it often has been in recent years with statutory and even hard to pass constitutional amendments, some of which, like TABOR in 1992 or Amendment 23 in 2000, will have a major revenue impact. This year’s revenue initiatives are in reverse of TABOR as they will commit Colorado to producing billions of dollars of new tax revenue every year for roads and schools.

The following are the 2018 proposals with some brief comments on the more talked about items.

The legislature placed several measures on the ballot, all constitutional amendments:
  • A – Repeals slavery language (second effort)
  • U – Lowers age for legislature from 25 to 21 (Do people like Millennials?)
  • W – Language on judicial retention
  • X – Hemp (statutory definition)
  • Y – Congressional redistricting (could have major impact on Colorado’s current delegation and new seat in 2022)
  • Z – State Legislature redistricting (changes in 2022 could affect party control)
Citizen initiatives (“C” for constitutional, “SS” for statutory)
  • 73 C – Taxes and education ($1.6 billion. A lot of union money in the campaign.)
  • 74 C – Takings (Oil and gas industry favor. But local government argue litigious and expensive for taxpayers.)
  • 75 C – Campaign finance (The Polis amendment. If billionaire runs, it offers a little help for underdog.)
  • 109 SS – Fix Our Damn roads (Does Jon Caldara get a win?)
  • 110 SS – Taxes for roads (Governor, Chambers and businesses all in with massive TV campaign. Holding at about 50% in private polls.)
  • 111 SS – Payday loans – 36% cap
  • 112 SS – Fracking limits (If it wins, expect major economic impact and possible backlash in next election cycle)

The Authoritarian Presidency

As Richard Nixon faced his Watergate accusers after his landslide 1972 re-election, critics had already established an intellectual theme, the Imperial Presidency, that appeared in scholarly journals, books and guest editorials. It urged action to tame his administration’s behavior.

After his resignation and pardon, the 1974 midterm elections brought 43 new Democrats to the House and three more to the Senate, setting the stage for new legislation to constrain the Nixon administration’s long described rogue behavior. The War Power Act was passed (before the resignation), along with dozens of laws related to elections and abuse of power, such as the Federal Elections Commission and Freedom of Information Act. To help strengthen congressional oversight, the Congressional Budget Office was created. The growth of presidential power was slowed.

Similar to the 1970s, an entire publishing industry has been established critiquing President Trump’s abuse of power and danger to democracy. Google the term “Trump and fascism” or “authoritarianism” and see dozens of citations to popular and academic references. The intellectual framework is in place to limit the Authoritarian Presidency. If the Democrats win the House in the 2018 midterm, it will reflect a desire by voters to put some side rails on the Trump presidency. Discussions have already begun about which House committees would be involved, what issues addressed and the timing and process to follow.

Reporter Jeff Barker in the Baltimore Sun, hometown paper of Elijah Cummings, described the 22-year congressional veteran who could replace retiring Republican Trey Gowdy as Chair of the powerful Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which was a scourge of the Obama administration under Darrell Issa and now works equally hard to protect Trump

Cummings, as a ranking minority member, has already requested subpoenas for subjects related to immigrant family separation, security clearances and patient protection, such as pre-existing conditions. A few of the topics discussed among staffs and members include:

One issue Cummings and the Democratic House leadership want to avoid is impeachment. As I told Barker:

“The risk of talking about impeachment is to scare off moderates, suburbanites, independents who would like a little relief from the level of bitter partisanship and the unbelievable gridlock,” said Floyd Ciruli, a Colorado-based independent pollster. “Their problem is, Mueller may come in with true high crimes and misdemeanors.”

If Mueller presented impeachment-worthy evidence, Ciruli said, the Democrats could get dragged into a debate “in spite of their leadership.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Expert Panel Highlights Stapleton’s Challenge in Colorado

The gubernatorial debates have started. Will they make a difference? A DU panel of political experts described the challenge Republican Walker Stapleton has, highlighted by the recent poll that showed him 7 points behind Jared Polis.

The data shows Stapleton facing a gender and age gap in addition to being behind Polis by 18 points among unaffiliated voters, who are likely to turn out above their usual weak numbers due to their new engagement in the June party primary and surge in late registration (more than 2-to-1 over both parties).

  • Stapleton must deal with a 12-point gender gap. He’s up 5 points with men, but down 17 points with women.
  • Voters under 55 are a problem for Stapleton. He’s down 20 points, but only up 7 with 55 and over – a 13-point age gap.
DU panel (L to R): Floyd Ciruli, Dick Wadhams, Steve Welchert, Fofi Mendez and Sam Mamet (not pictured Jerry Bell) | Twitter post @JonMurray of Denver Post

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

SCFD’s 30-Year Anniversary

One of America’s most extraordinary cultural funding organizations, the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), is celebrating its 30-year history in an event on November 28 at the McNichols Civic Center. As part of the celebration, Rocky Mountain PBS has created a program highlighting the founding of the SCFD.

Governor Roy Romer signed the legislation creating the District on July 1, 1987, with supporters gathered around his desk. In November 1988, 75 percent of Denver metro voters in six counties authorized the collection of the sales tax, producing about $14 million for distribution to regional cultural organizations starting in 1989. Today, more than $60 million will be distributed.

Picture from RMPBS
Ciruli Associates was the primary consultant for the creation of the SCFD. It managed the initial campaign in 1988 and the subsequent renewals in 1994, 2004 and 2016.

Thanks to RMPBS, the SCFD and the Citizens for Arts to Zoo (CATZ) (a civic organization that supports the SCFD) for their support of the 30-year celebration. Ciruli Associates provided the historical material for the RMPBS program.

Sex Abuse Scandal Causing Massive Damage to Church – Colorado Archdiocese on the Offensive

The reputation of the Catholic Church is suffering massive damage from the sex abuse scandal. Opinion of the church and its priests and bishops from both the public at-large and among Catholics has been harmed.

A new Economist/YouGov poll shows that 54 percent of the public now has an unfavorable view of the Catholic Church. Even 28 percent of Catholics now have a negative opinion of the Church.

When compared to the public’s views on churches in general, it’s easy to see how much lower the Catholic Church’s reputation compares.

In a series of questions, the poll identified the key elements of the scandal for the Church:
  • 33% of those raised Catholic no longer view themselves Catholic (in this survey 25% of public were raised Catholic, 18% call themselves Catholic)
  • 44% believe “many priests abused children and teenagers”; 30% of Catholics agree 
  • 30% believe many priests are abusing children now, 15% of Catholics agree
  • 44% say “most or all” bishops were aware of serial abuse, 43% of Catholics agree
  • 28% believe Church is now mostly trying to cover up serial abuse by priests rather than protecting children, 18% Catholics
The Denver Catholic Archdiocese was at least 10 years ahead of the U.S. Bishop’s Conference in dealing with the problem. In 1991, Archbishop, now Cardinal Stafford, started mandatory reporting of abuse to law enforcement authorities. Programs for victims were initiated. Archbishop Chaput continued and extended the programs assisting more than 50 victims of priests (who were deceased). Archbishop Aquila joined the effort to focus on preventing future abuse with a zero tolerance policy.

Nationally and locally, procedures in seminaries are being stepped up to ensure healthy priests and policies are enacted to ensure accountability and transparency in misconduct of cardinals, bishops and priests.

The archdiocese has been highlighting their response in a series of high-profile articles in the Denver Catholic (the old Register). The September 22-October 12 Denver Catholic described Pope Francis’ effort to deal with the scandal with a worldwide session of bishops next February. In a Q&A, Scott Browning, an attorney for the Archdioceses of Denver, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and St. Louis, provides a factual background on the history of cases in Denver and the current efforts to protect children and detect abuse. It’s worth reading.

The Buzz: Francis – Clean house
Pew: Confidence in Pope Francis down sharply in U.S.