John Hickenlooper’s early moves are trying to avoid comparisons with Bill Ritter’s weak start.
• Hickenlooper’s first few appointments drew from the legislature, which addresses his own lack of legislative experience and what became a steady criticism of Ritter’s weak legislative relations.
• In announcing his economic development strategy, which involves an economic plan being developed in all 64 counties and then consolidated into 9 regions before becoming a state plan, he made sure to say it shouldn’t take a year, harking back to Ritter’s penchant for year long or longer task forces. Hickenlooper gave them 4 months. At a minimum, this should be a jobs program for economic development officials.
• In picking Joe Garcia, Al White and Christine Scanlan, Hickenlooper leans heavily on non-Denver and out-of-state appointments. Between Ritter’s in-house team and several high-profile Denver appointments (Don Mares and Ari Zavaras), his administration took on an early Denver cast.
• Although it’s early, Hickenlooper is likely to promote a November ballot initiative in 2011. He likes working with well-placed interest groups, and higher education may be the most needy and most ready to move. Ritter passed in his first year and then lost the severance tax initiative in his second year. Governors who can effectively use the ballot are much more powerful and effective than those who can’t.
A good part of the Ritter legacy will be Hickenlooper trying to avoid his mistakes.