Wednesday, January 17, 2018

It’s Not Time to Panic Yet

“It’s not time to panic yet,” said researcher Billy Barr after measuring snowfall, water equivalency and daily temperatures in Crested Butte. The area is facing the worst winter ever recorded for lack of snow.

Recognizing the state’s vulnerability, Governor John Hickenlooper in his final State of the State speech highlighted the state’s unmet water needs. Steady population growth and a possible looming drought have created a water gap that can only be met with strong conservation measures and new projects. The state has identified $3 billion in needs, and Hickenlooper called for funding.

On January 25, he will review his water legacy and describe his recommendations for next steps with the state’s water leadership. The forum, which I will moderate, includes questions from the leaders.

Colorado Water Congress 2018
Annual Convention

Thursday Luncheon
12:00 pm to 1:15 pm
January 25, 2018

Keynote Speaker
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper


State of the State Speech, January 11, 2018
This includes protecting our water for agriculture. If we don’t implement our water plan, rural agricultural communities will be hit first and hardest. We live in a state of open markets. They can never afford to match what front range homeowners pay for domestic water. Having a sustainable source of food – no matter what happens around the world – is an essential foundation for the future of our state. We’re one of the great food exporting states and that’s a resource we should continue to invest in, rather than put at risk.
The Colorado Water Plan provides a framework, but doesn’t include all the funding for the last billion dollars over the next thirty years, we need the support of the General Assembly.
See Colorado Politics: Hickenlooper’s final State of the State reminds lawmakers about water plan

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Crisis of Democracy – DU’s Engaging Ideas Series

Democracy is being challenged. Some weak and new democracies are becoming less democratic and more authoritarian. Even established democracies are facing challenges from rising populist parties and politicians that disdain democratic values and procedures.

The University of Denver has begun a video series called Engaging Ideas hosted by former Dean and Provost, Jim Griesemer, where faculty present their research and ideas to further public dialogue on real world issues.

My segment, “Democracy on the Defense,” presents material used at international forums, in DU classes, and in front of Colorado audiences on democratic trends in the U.S. and worldwide. To view the interview directly, click here.

Colorado Politics: A New Congressional Seat for Colorado

Colorado Politics published my latest analysis of Colorado’s prospects for a new congressional seat after the 2020 census. The decision as to where to place the seat will begin as soon as the reappointment is announced, probably in late 2020. The next governor and likely the new legislature will be involved. More reason for Colorado’s November election to be closely fought.

CIRULI: a new congressional seat for Colorado in 2020?

Colorado’s political parties will be fully engaged in the 2018 election, and not least among its issues of concern is the possibility that Colorado could get another congressional seat. As of now, congressional redistricting is directed by the governor and legislature, and control of both is at stake.

Distribution of 435 congressional districts is governed by the 2020 census count, which is historically drawn on April 1 in decennial years. In 2020, that will be in the middle of undoubtedly raucous presidential primaries in which the census may be an issue. The latest census estimates indicate a congressional district needs about 750,000 residents, up from 710,000 in 2010. Colorado last picked up a seat in 2000, which became the 7th district in the northwest metro area suburbs. Its location was court determined after the legislature and governor gridlocked over the map. Read more…

Friday, January 12, 2018

Colorado Democrats Start 2018 Ahead, But Face Risks

Colorado has slipped to the left during the last decade, and a couple of recent polls confirm Democrats start the year in the lead for the governor’s race.

Both polls by respected Democratic firms assume Tom Tancredo is the Republican nominee. As of now, he has the highest name identification and firmest base of voters. But, Tancredo is also controversial within the Republican Party and highly polarizing to the overall electorate. It is very early, with most Republicans candidates still in fundraising and grassroots mode. But for purposes of polling, Tancredo’s two previous races for governor and his Trump/Bannon-like position on immigration makes him a reasonable stand in for the Republican frontrunner. The party doesn’t lack potential serious gubernatorial nominees, including State Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Democrats also have a frontrunner who is only slightly less controversial than Tancredo. Jared Polis, the liberal libertarian Boulder congressperson, who has spent most of his political career promoting himself from outside the party and aggravating the Democratic establishment, has the highest profile and most money (his own) in the race. The Democratic field also has several competitors with sufficient name identification to be tested in a poll. Considered the most competitive is former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, former State Senator Mike Johnston and current Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne. Tancredo loses to the Democratic field in the PPP poll from 8 to 4 points.

In his 8-point loss to Polis, Tancredo gets 71 percent of Republicans, 12 percent of Democrats and 37 percent of unaffiliated.

The poll has a Democratic lean, with 36 percent identifying as Democrats and 30 percent as Republicans. Registration is more likely 31 percent for each party, and off-year turnout has been slightly more Republican historically. But Democrats have been pulling even in Colorado, and anti-Trump enthusiasm may have them more likely to vote.

It’s very early, but probably the strongest Democratic candidate today is Kennedy, who is the best regarded among Democrats (76%) with considerably less baggage than Polis. Outside of self-funding Polis, Johnston is the best fundraiser. The Democratic danger is that primary voters and liberal interest groups will nominate a candidate with a platform of unworkable and unaffordable proposals. With the exception of Boulder liberal Rollie Heath (2002), the party has nominated candidates with positions that are more reflective of Colorado’s pragmatic center than the national party’s approach.

If the Democratic Party veers too far left and Tancredo is the Republican nominee, expect a serious independent candidate for governor.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Bruce Benson Hits Ten-Year Mark at CU

University of Colorado President Bruce Benson is approaching his ten-year mark as president of CU. Benson hasn’t slowed down. He tweets with 300,000 plus followers, has a regular newsletter and great Christmas card, and continues his prodigious fundraising.

He started the job March 10, 2008. Does he want to do another five years or is he ready for his next project?

University of Colorado President Bruce Benson (R) and
 Financial Chief Todd Saliman at CU Systems Services office,
 Denver, Feb. 27, 2017 | Mark Leffingwell/Boulder Daily Camera

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Mexico’s July 1 Presidential Election Will Feature Corruption and Dealing with USA as Major Topics

The ruling party is in a battle to hold power. President Enrique Peña Nieto, after a difficult five years, is working to pass along the presidency to his party, the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party). After monopoly political power in Mexico for most of the 20th century, they lost control to the center-right PAN in 2000. They returned to the presidency in 2012 with Nieto and don’t want to lose it again.

PRI is fielding candidates to see who is strongest against expected frontrunner, former socialist mayor of Mexico City Andrés Manuel López Obrador. PRI Finance Minister José Antonio Meade is the current preferred candidate. In a late November poll, he was only 5 points behind López Obrador, 28.7 percent to 23.2 percent (GCE).

Except for López Obrador who has near universal name identification, most of the field is unknown to voters. Barely a third of voters could identify Meade. López Obrador has run twice before for president, getting close in 2006 and refusing to concede. He was labeled the Hugo Chávez of Mexico, but is currently running a more moderate-sounding campaign focused on corruption and Mexico’s self-sufficiency. Like Donald Trump, he’s not a fan of NAFTA.

Early polls show him ahead of a multi-candidate field (6 to 10 candidates offered) by 5 to 15 percentage points in a first past the post no run-off system. Nieto won with 38 percent in 2012. López Obrador has indicated he might add a socially conservative party to his coalition in a quest for a plurality. He is likely at least 5 to 10 points short of the 35 to 40 percent needed to win.

Independents will be allowed to run in the July 1 election for the first time. They are entering the race, including former First Lady Margarita Zavala (PAN President Felipe Calderón’s wife) and Nuevo León Governor Jaime Rodríguez.

PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) of current President Enrique Peña Nieto will hold a convention in March. The major parties must offer their candidates by March. PAN (National Action Party) and PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) are considering a coalition and options for candidates. Candidates could be Ricardo Anaya Cortés, former PAN leader. Morena (National Regeneration Movement) was created by López Obrador. He has produced a 400-page manifesto to fight corruption and run his government.

Polling in Mexico:
El Universal, 1000, Nov. 10-17, 2017, ±3.53 error
El Financiero, 1004, Nov. 11-16, 2017, ±3.1 error
GCE, 600, Nov. 28, 2017
Parametria, 800, Dec. 14-17, 2017, ±3.5 error

Trump in Colorado – Playing His Base and Losing Ground

Donald Trump won the presidency with 46 percent of the popular vote to Hillary Clinton’s 48 percent. His national end-of-year approval was 39 percent in RealClearPolitics, 7 percent below his vote. Similarly, in Colorado, Trump is 7 points down. He has a 36 percent approval after losing the state with 43 percent in 2016 against Clinton. He has contracted his election support down 7 points to a base of about one-third to two-fifths of the electorate both nationally and in Colorado – a likely losing position in the upcoming election. (Public Policy poll, 770 auto dial/online, Dec. 4-5, 2017)

His relentless catering to and communication with his “base” has, as expected, narrowed his support, not widened it. Like his national slide in approval, Coloradans’ judgement of Trump’s first year has been poor. Unless Trump changes strategies, he is likely to take down the Republican Party gubernatorial nominee and other candidates in Colorado’s 2018 races.

Colorado is going to be both a battlefield and a harbinger of the 2018 election. Trump’s national decline is mirrored in the state at the moment the governorship is open, two of the state’s constitutional offices – treasurer and attorney general – and control of the state legislature in play.

The spread between approval and disapproval among Trump and Clinton voters and Republicans and Democrats demonstrate the challenges Republicans face if Trump’s approval remains mired below 40 percent during 2018.

An examination of the demographics of Trump’s Colorado approval (see chart below) shows his weakness within his party and among demographic groups that favored him in the 2016 election. The poll shows that passion among Democrats (approved difference among pro-Trump voters – 70% vs. pro-Clinton voters – 86%). Most ominously, it indicates that independent voters, who often swing elections, are currently in the disapproving camp.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Colorado Politics: Roy Moore’s Fate Shows Character Counts — While Control of the House Teeters

Sex scandals will be a political topic in the 2018 battle for control of the U.S. Congress. Roy Moore and Alabama highlighted character of the candidates and President Trump will be factors in the upcoming contests. Read my latest opinion piece in Colorado Politics, the state’s political website.

Roy Moore’s fate shows character counts — while control of the House teeters

My Dec. 6 blog on the Alabama Senate race opened with, “Alabama Judge Roy Moore is in the first post-Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, et.al. sex scandal election.” His loss in a state that Republicans have held a near total lock on since the early 1990s was a powerful demonstration that character counts. Because of the uniqueness of the election and difficulty of capturing the turnout patterns of major constituencies; i.e., African Americans, rural whites, Millennials, and suburban women, final polls and conventional wisdom, including Democratic commentators, thought Moore was likely to eke out a win. Polls in the last week showed Moore winning by 4 to 9 points, except that the last reported poll conducted by Fox News had Doug Jones up by 10 points. Most observers thought the Fox News poll was an outlier, not a harbinger. But Jones won with about 21,000 votes, or 1.5 percent, of the 1.3 million votes cast.

The following are some conclusions from the election.

Paul Ryan Quits?
The election has significant impact for Republicans as the 2018 contests begin. The first casualty of the Alabama result may be Paul Ryan. He sees the election, as do most political observers, as a mirror image of the 63-seat disaster for Democrats in 2010. Ryan does not intend on being the minority leader, defending the ever embattled and seldom grateful Donald Trump. Clearly, the Alabama result begins to change the calculation for both House and Senate races. And, of course, some of the Republican problems in Alabama have not gone away. In spite of his stunning loss, Steve Bannon continues to recruit anti-Republican establishment candidates and the party’s Trump divisions are affecting races, such as in Arizona and Nevada. Read more…

Former White House Strategist Steve Bannon shakes hands
with embattled Senate candidate Roy Moore at a
 rally in Alabama | Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

Dow Hits Six 1000-point Increases Since Trump Election

In a record of 23 days, the Dow crossed 25000 on Thursday, January 4, three trading days into 2018.

Is the market reaching a top? The analysts are mixed. World economies mostly remain robust, but inflation lurks and this is the age of disruption. Is it the end of the greatest bull market since WWII, with stock prices high and a downturn imminent or is the market in the middle of a worldwide expansion at a sweet spot for inflation (low), interests rates (still low) and commodity prices (like oil)?

The Trump boom has produced two record quick 1000-point increases. Thirty-four days on March 1 when 21000 was crossed and Thursday, 23-day holiday barn burner. The last 20-day increase was in the dot-com boom of 1999 when the market hit 11000 in 24 days. Although the market ended the year at a record gain of 25 percent, the fifth year in a row with double-digit gains, the Dow peaked on January 14, 2000, meandered, and then plunged 40 percent to 7200 in 2002. It took 7 years to gain another 1000 and hit 12000 after the dot-com burst. Is there a crash in 2018?

Friday, January 5, 2018

Market at Record High

The economy and market had a supercharged year. Both the U.S. and world stock indexes reached historic highs.
  • The American government helped with stability in the Fed with transition from well-respected Janet Yellen to a similarly disposed, Jerome Powell.
  • The growth-oriented Trump administration and Republican Congress helped the market with promises of deregulation and lower taxes. Central banks and governments around the world were market- and growth-oriented, helping to encourage and synchronize recovery from the 2008-9 great recession.
  • Bad things either didn’t happen or the consequences were absorbed without much disruption. A pro-EU French government was elected; Brexit has yet to damage UK markets; China slowed, but maintains growth; hurricanes, floods and fires were short-term effects; and the world’s hot spots were more about rhetoric than confrontation. The major fight in Syria and Iraq has ended reasonably well.
  • The technology sector boomed with new applications for communication, entertainment, retail and transportation:  FANG, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google.
Analysts mostly missed the 2017 25 percent surge in the Dow (28% in the NASDAQ). Now, they mostly see a positive, but less exuberant in 2018.

Romer Recognized for LA Unified Building Program

Roy Romer is about to turn 90 and just got recognized for his work in 2000 when he became the superintendent of one of the largest and most unmanageable school districts in the country – LA Unified.

The Los Angeles City Council honored him for his well-regarded six-year tour in which he used his business and political background to focus on desperately needed capital projects. He was responsible for building 131 new schools. Always a salesman, he talked LA voters into three bond initiatives.

His quote in Colorado Politics was vintage Romer:
“I was over 70, I was unemployed, I needed a job. Having served 12 years as Colorado’s governor, you’ve got to look hard to find a better job than that,” a smiling Romer, 89, told the crowd that packed council chambers. He added, “I have 22 grandchildren. There is no higher value in my system than to enable a person to learn and to grow and to be all they can be. I didn’t work harder all my life than the six years, seven years I spent here.”
Former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer thanks Los Angeles City Council who
honored  him for his work as superintendent of the LA Unified  School
District, Dec. 13, 2017 | Colorado Politics/LA City Council video screengrab 

See Colorado Politics: LA City Council honors former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer for accomplishments as school superintendent

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Xanax-type of Year

When Americans were asked in mid-December to rate what events that happened in 2017 that were “most significant and important” to them personably, they rated highest the Las Vegas shooting; terror attacks in New York; the hurricanes, floods and wild fires; and the Trump inauguration. All mostly high-anxiety producing events (WSJ/NBC News, Dec. 15, 2017).

Also in December, Gallup asked what was the “top problem” in 2017 and dissatisfaction with government rated first. Health care, race relations, immigration and the need to unite the country were next.

Hickenlooper and Ciruli Talk Water

What will be the Hickenlooper legacy on water policy and development? Floyd Ciruli and Governor John Hickenlooper will review the administration’s accomplishments and what the Governor believes the next administration needs to do.

Colorado Water Congress 2018
Annual Convention
Thursday Luncheon
12:00 pm to 1:15 pm
January 25, 2018
Keynote Speaker
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper

Moderator: Floyd Ciruli, Ciruli Associates 
As we enter the final year of the Hickenlooper Administration, what are the expectations? It has been nearly 4 years since Governor set in motion the process to develop a balanced Colorado Water Plan. Virtually every sector of Colorado’s water community engaged in the work. All things considered, did we achieve the underlying goals? This interactive session will feature an opportunity to have a conversation with the Governor. What are the next steps for a new administration?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Colorado Politics – Could Donald Trump be Heading for Re-election?

Donald Trump made it through 2017 with some accomplishments and a massive amount of disruption of the expected behavior of the White House and the President. No doubt, the show will continue in full force into 2018.

In a column in the state’s leading political website, I discuss if Trump could be headed for re-election.

Trump Heading for Re-election?

Rather than speculate about Donald Trump’s re-election chances, audiences at recent speech engagements all seem to have an answer to the same question: Will Donald Trump make it a full four years? The discussion produces considerable anxiety for both his supporters and his many and very vocal detractors.

The following is a running commentary from a slide I use in the presentations on the various scenarios that could sideline Trump before the 2020 election. It also includes possible options in the election itself.

Impeachment. Could he be impeached is asked most often, followed by the likelihood of Trump’s death. Neither is likely. Assuming partisanship dominates the process, the Democrats would need to win the House in the 2018 midterm elections. It will be their best chance since losing it in 2010. If they were to win 24 House seats, they could bring an indictment, but with 67 votes required for conviction in the Senate, it appears a futile effort. Democrats would have to decide if it would be a distraction to their effort to defeat Trump in 2020. Everyone recalls that the major loser in the Bill Clinton impeachment was Newt Gingrich, who lost his speakership in the poor Republican showing in the 1998 midterms. Read more…