Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Denver Post on Governors and Mayors

In a couple of well done Denver Post reports on the new status of governors with a focus on Jared Polis by Alex Burness and Denver’s embattled mayoral system by Conrad Swanson, the interactions and tensions of managing the pandemic, recession and race relations in Colorado are described.

A few points of discussion:
  • Polis had been able to strike a mostly successful balance so far between containing the virus and opening up the economy. But, as several state and cities show, it’s not over and there’s more challenges ahead. Most governors around the country benefit today due to the health of residents being a state responsibility; i.e., like fires and floods, a need for unified expertise and leadership, and a profound vacuum in Washington. Polls confirm that governors are more trusted than President Trump. Sixty-six percent approve governors handling the virus, but only 43 percent approve of Trump (Quinnipiac, May 2020).
  • Colorado and Polis have benefited from an abbreviated legislative session, which demonstrated that the exercise of pragmatism and restraint; i.e., a shortened timeline due to the virus, a limited purpose (pass the budget, handle a few emergency issues and avoid most big ticket items), can get an amazing amount done. Colorado set the national standard for speed and bipartisan support for a package of criminal justice changes, and it took $3 billion, or ten percent, out of the state budget without a bloodbath. An amazing success in a very difficult year.
  • Denver is dealing with an extraordinary transition from just having a very heated mayoral and city council races mostly around growth and development, which kept the pro-business liberal mayor, but brought a group of anti-establishment, anti-development and social justice advocates into the city council and influence in general.
  • Denver’s effort to reduce the authority of the mayor is against the trend in municipal governance in many places that have shifted to a stronger executive and often look to Denver’s model. Aurora, Colorado Springs and Pueblo have all strengthened their executives. Colorado Springs and Pueblo just voted to create mayoral systems.
  • Denver has been a well-run city and national exemplar for decades. It would be a mistake to lose the city’s balanced system to gridlock, council factionalism and undue interest group influence. Should Denver turn over power to a group that can’t maintain order in their own chambers?

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