Friday, January 18, 2019

Growth and No Growth – Top Issues in Colorado

Utah will get the Olympics, not Colorado. Who cares? The state wasn’t all that enthusiastic about getting Amazon’s second headquarters. Citizens are more concerned about traffic, housing prices and gentrification. But in spite of the lack of local enthusiasm, and some firm resistance, Colorado continues to grow. If not quite as rapidly as half a decade ago, it still was in the top seven states in growth from July 2017 to July 2018, with 79,000 new residents. The state was ranked with Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Florida and Washington. After Colorado, rounding out the top ten were Texas and North and South Carolinas.

Historically, just about the time anti-growth forces get motivated and organized for serious limitations, a recessions starts. Many economists now predict a recession during 2020. The last peak of anti-growth energy in Colorado was in 2000 with a statewide growth limiting ballot initiative. The bust began an economic slowdown the next year, which translated to a lower growth rate during the decade.

New Congressional District
The nearly 80,000 new residents is down slightly from the 101,000 mid-decade influx from July 2014 to July 2015. But this year’s increase contributes to the 666,000 additional residents since the last census in 2010, ranking Colorado one of the fastest growing states for the decade and likely to be the recipient of a new congressional district.

The state joins Arizona, Florida (2), North Carolina, Oregon and Texas (3) projected to pick up new districts. It’s not clear where the district will be located, but all the current districts will lose some population to create the new one. Also adding to uncertainty of location, a new commission will guide the process. With about 5.7 million residents, Colorado’s current seven districts have about 800,000 residents, with considerable variation among them. The new eight districts will have 712,000 each. All seven current House districts will see some geographic, demographic and political change. Like musical chairs when the music stops, the year 2022 will have new candidates searching and old incumbents scrambling for seats.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Is the Wall and Shutdown a Winner for Trump and Republicans?

A portion of the fence along the U.S. border with Mexico
 in Southern California | BBC World Service
President Trump is convinced his demand for wall funding and willingness to accept an extended government shutdown is a winner. In fact, the wall has never had much support beyond Trump’s core support and shutdowns are always losers due to the image of political incompetence and stories of hardship that are featured in the media.

When Trump said he welcomed blame for the shutdown, he was declaring he accepts no responsibility for the government operating and that his interest in the “wall,” which is largely political, was superior to any difficulties faced by federal workers, contractors and citizens missing services. That is a shift from the usual position of presidents and makes negotiating especially difficult. He has little urgency or willingness to compromise. Neither do the Democrats. They are convinced voters don’t want the wall and that the party in control of the government ultimately is blamed for shutdowns.

Confirming the problem for Trump and Republicans have been a host of new polls from NBC News/Wall Street Journal, CNN and Washington Post/ABC News showing the Republicans and Trump getting the blame and the wall still not popular. A PPP poll (Public Policy Polling) commissioned by a liberal interest group in states with Republican senators up for re-election, like Colorado, tracks the national polls. PPP, although a Democratic firm, has a good track record on election polling, including in Colorado. Question wording is the place to especially review for bias. Three questions reprinted at the end of the blog appear the most straightforward.
  • Trump had 40% approval (nationally he’s at 41% in
  • Who do you blame the most for the shutdown – Trump 54%, Democrats 43%
  • Support for Congress voting to re-open government without wall funding – 58%, oppose 37%
  • Keep government closed until the President gets funding for the wall – 38% agree, 58% disagree
At best, Trump’s wall has support in the low 40 percent in Colorado. When the wall is combined with the shutdown, support drops to 37 percent to 38 percent.

This political fight reinforces that Trump is mainly concerned with his base. It plays in some states, but not Colorado.

PPP Questions

Q1.: Do you approve or disapprove of President Donald Trump’s job performance?
Q3.: As you may know, the federal government is currently in a shutdown. Who do you blame the most for the government shutdown: Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress or Democrats in Congress?
Q5.: Would you support or oppose congress voting today to re-open the government without funding the border wall?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Polis on Water

Newly inaugurated Governor Jared Polis had a low-key and positive start on water. His natural resource transition included Hickenlooper’s in-house water expert, John Stulp. Water policy in his State of the State address was only one paragraph, but it succinctly supported the State Water Plan and advocated getting it funded. He linked Colorado’s water to its agricultural needs, which is one of the key principles of the plan. That is, preserving agriculture in Colorado requires intelligent and prudent water management.

State of the State on Water

“The lifeblood of our agriculture industry is water – which is why we must commit to a bipartisan and sustainable funding source for the Colorado Water Plan. Governor Hickenlooper, along with the leadership of John Stulp, did extraordinary work bringing together a coalition of Coloradans from all corners of our state to create the Water Plan. Now we’re going to do our part by implementing it. State of the State address, Jan. 10, 2019

Gov. Jared Polis delivers his first State of the State address to a joint session of
the Colorado General Assembly, Jan. 10, 2019 | Colorado Channel screen shot

His heads of the departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture will bring new perspectives to the agencies. Dan Gibbs at the Department of Natural Resources has a long political track record associated with staff and appointed positions with Mark Udall and Bill Ritter. Most recently, he has been a Summit County commissioner.

Kate Greenberg, the new Agricultural Department commissioner, is less well known, but is the western field director of an organization called the National Young Farmers Coalition. She’s based in Durango.

Dealing with the water gap that is well identified in the State Plan is essential to protect irrigated agriculture and support the state’s quality of life and economy. The largest number of residential, business and agricultural water users are in the Arkansas and Platte basins. Their needs must be balanced with other users and uses, including recreation, wildlife and aesthetics.

Ken Buck Wants to Do What? KOA Interview

It’s a thankless job in a near impossible political environment, but Congressman Ken Buck has indicated he’s considering running for Republican State Party chairman. After the 2018 debacle, the party is facing a very difficult 2020 presidential election and re-election of Cory Gardner.

Buck would have many advantages that effective state chairman need. He knows the political landscape and is likely to get his calls answered. His high-profile and congressional experience should help in making the party’s case and managing the frequent crises. He should be effective on fundraising since much of the money is from out-of-state and specifically D.C.

Buck recognizes the key job is supporting Cory Gardner’s re-election with no static from the far right purists, who threaten a primary at any sign of independence. Colorado values independence, and Gardner is in a state that has shifted left. He will need a smooth run to re-nomination.

Buck’s main challenge is that an element of the party sees its main mission is to police deviation from 100 percent Trump loyalty. Donald Trump is a disaster in Colorado and will be lucky to get the 43 percent he received in 2016. Hence, the next state chair must deal with the animated base in a state dominated by unaffiliated voters, who, while persuadable, have already indicated they will not likely be Trump supporters. Developing a message in that environment will be a challenge.

Rep. Ken Buck during a meeting with constituents at the Southwest Weld County
Services Complex in Firestone, March 25, 2017 | Paul Aiken/Boulder Daily Camera

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Water Congress Examines Future Trends in Age of Disruption

The 2019 Colorado Water Congress (CWC) convention will examine major social, demographic and political trends that will affect water and natural resource policy in 2019 and the decade beyond. The presentation is titled, “Colorado Political Landscape.” At a legislative breakfast, the new chairmen of the legislative water committees will describe their 2019 agendas. Moderating the discussion will be the CWC longtime lobbyist Dianna Orf and public policy director Chane Polo.

Legislators and Committees

Senate Agriculture, Natural Resource and Energy Committee
Chair Kerry Donovan, Democrat
Jerry Sonnenberg, Ranking Republican

State House Rural Affairs Committee
Chair Dylan Roberts, Democrat
Marc Catlin, Ranking Republican

Rotary Club Takes on Mental Health Cause

At the Rotary State of the State Luncheon, Molly Bloom of “Molly’s Game” held the audience of 600 with her story of skiing, gaming and mental turmoil. As a motivational speaker and AA Step 12 participant, she encourages people to seek help.

The Rotary has taken up mental health as their major mission, partnering with some of the area’s largest medical organizations, such as the Colorado Health Foundation, HealthONE, Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children and the Mental Health Center of Denver.

I discussed with Channel 9’s Kim Christiansen, the event moderator, the midterm election and the new political environment. Specifically, I pointed out that although voters opposed statewide ballot issues that raised taxes, they were very generous with local requests, including mental health.

Kim Christiansen and Molly Bloom
Mental Health on Ballot. Mental health, alternative-sentencing and public safety were significant topics on the ballot in the 2018 election. Four Front Range counties offered proposals to fund new programs and facilities to address mental health, drug addiction and alternative-sentencing through increased or extended sales taxes.

In Boulder, El Paso and Larimer counties, county commissioners placed measures on the ballot. In Denver, a petition effort supported by advocates was used. The sales taxes range from a .185 extension in Boulder, which will raise $10 million annually for 5 years, to .25 increases in Denver and Larimer, producing $45 million a year for 10 years and $16.5 million a year for 20 years, respectively. The El Paso sales tax extension is for 10 years and goes into the general fund for use of the Sheriff’s Department. All four taxes passed substantially.

  • The sales tax is being used for public safety-type measures. In 2018, sales taxes are popular, with local sales tax increases proposed for various programs and facilities.
  • Sales taxes are being used to build facilities.
  • All four proposals have sunset provisions.
  • Three reference mental and behavioral health. El Paso County cites emergency response.
  • Three proposals include programs, especially aimed at diverting people from the criminal justice system and offering various treatments and educational and vocational programs.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Villager is Arapahoe County Legend

Bob Sweeney, publisher and editor of The Villager, promotes his paper, his state and his values every day in The Villager. He covered a post-election speech I gave to the Metro Club at the November Power Lunch.

Scottie Taylor Iverson is the social editor and person around town who takes pictures and gets the news.

Keynote speaker Floyd Ciruli (L), Bob Sweeney
and Adrienne Ruston Fitzgibbons | The Villager

Political analyst Floyd Ciruli was the keynote speaker when METRO CLUB held its “power lunch” to gain insight into the election results of 2018. Cleverly named “Exhale!,” the meeting gave attendees a chance to see graphics of the specific election results and a glimpse of future possibilities and challenges. The buffet was catered by Mangia Bevi CafĂ©. METRO CLUB is being organized to reinvent the former revered Metropolitan Club in Greenwood Village.

See The Villager: FLAIR! – METRO CLUB hosts “Power Lunch” at Madden Museum of Art