Thursday, December 23, 2021

Protecting Colorado’s Land and Environment

Gov. Roy Romer and Dept. of Natural Resources Executive
Director Ken Salazar form a citizens committee, which
consisted of conservation, business and political leaders
 from across Colorado | Photo: GOCO website
After a decade of rapid growth, open space and recreational funds in Colorado have never been more valuable. Fortunately, Colorado voters recognized the importance of land protection and have been highly supportive of government funding dedicated to the outdoors.


Ciruli Associates, working with then Governor Roy Romer; Ken Salazar, Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources (now ambassador to Mexico); and a group of dedicated land conservationists guided a constitutional amendment onto the 1992 statewide ballot and passed the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) program. Our firm directed and provided research for the campaign, which won with 58 percent of the vote.

The program redirected Colorado Lottery money that was being spent on prison construction to an open space, parks, trails, wildlife and recreation program. It has put $1.3 billion over the last three decades into grants for more than 5,000 local and regional land and water conservation and recreation projects in all 64 Colorado county governments.

State Land Stewardship Trust

In 1996, Governor Romer and Natural Resources Executive Director Jim Lochhead (now CEO/manager of Denver Water) requested we direct a new campaign for Constitutional Amendment 16 to reform the governance of the State Land Board and create a Stewardship Trust for up to 10 percent of the land held in the state trust, or about 300,000 acres.

The governance change created a volunteer board of citizens with backgrounds in schools, agriculture, local government and natural resources. The Stewardship Trust added a level of protection and preservation for environmentally valuable state lands. Our firm again provided management, focus groups, polls, and television and print advertising for the campaign. 

National Models

Both GOCO and the Stewardship Trust are considered highly successful national models, which were supported by state leaders and voters. They are among our firm’s most esteemed projects.

Greenland Ranch land protection of 17,000+ acres between Denver and
 Colorado Springs along the I-25 corridor | Photo: GOCO website

Protected land in Colorado | Photo: GOCO website

Why Xi Won’t Leave China?

Xi Jinping, the president of China, not surprisingly, did not attend the recent Zoom Summit of Democracy. He leads the world’s most powerful autocratic country as head of sole-ruling 95 million-member Communist Party. Xi is expected to be elected for a third term this spring, which will break a two-term precedent and will likely secure his position for the indefinite future.

After several years of traveling frequently, Xi has not left China for a foreign trip or welcomed a foreign leader in two years. Vladimir Putin, the authoritarian leader of Russia, will be his first leader to visit during the February Winter Olympics. Why has Xi self-isolated? The claim is covid worries, but that may be more related to China’s reputation for being the origin of COVID-19 than concerns of contracting it.

  • Xi’s reluctance to leave China beyond the official statements is not known. Divining motivation in the opaque governing environment of China involves speculation with a few facts:
  • Xi is according the Pew polls the least respected major power leader tested. Only former President Donald Trump exceeded him in the last test. In more developed democracies, the unpopular Xi could be booed.
  • The authoritarian sales pitch has its fans, but they are a small minority in the West.
  • His foreign and domestic policy is so aggressive and the “Wolf Warriors” so strident, he’s put off more parties than made friends among major power leaders and interest groups.
  • His economic transition for party control and more “equity” is slowing the economy. Free trade is on the defense. Entrepreneurs are wary as to the government’s shift.
  • Every new lockdown reminds the world of the origin of the pandemic and the unwillingness of Xi to own up to it and collaborate with an international investigation.

Photo: State Department

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Do Colorado Democrats have a Firewall Against the Republican Surge Building?

Hillary Clinton believed she had a firewall in 2016 in the upper Midwest, but then she lost Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. In 2018, Colorado Democrats swept Colorado by 10 points or more in statewide offices, won a new congressional seat and took even firmer control of the state legislature. Republicans did even worse in 2020, losing the presidential election by 12 points (more than 2 times the loss in 2016) and their senate seat by 10. Do Democrats now have a firewall?

The Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections last November were warning lights that the big partisan wins a year earlier may not stop an electorate angry at Washington or wanting to send a message for change? President Joe Biden won Virginia by 10 points and New Jersey by 16, but the Democratic candidates lost in Virginia by 2 points and held on in New Jersey by 3. Biden’s low approval, new COVID-19 variants and a sharp increase in inflation are major burdens as the 2022 campaigns begin.

The early D.C. prognosticators have both Senator Bennet and Governor Polis as likely winners, rating the state overall leaning Democratic, but Democrats are wary, as they should be. Federal officeholders are especially vulnerable to national trends. Bennet’s wins have not been impressive (2 points in 2010, 6 points in 2016) and Democrats will be in a major fight to take the new congressional seat (8th) and to hold onto at least one vulnerable district (7th).

Cherry Creek West First Design Released

East West Partners, a longtime Colorado developer whose projects include Denver’s Riverfront Park and the redevelopment of the Union Station neighborhood in Lower Downtown, announced in November it is launching ‘a transformative redevelopment’ of the western end of the Cherry Creek Mall. The space currently has an empty big box, Bed Bath & Beyond, the popular Elway’s and parking lots.

The Buell Foundation and Taubman Realty Group, the owners of the land and the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, are key collaborators and will be involved in the planning. Helping lead the Buell board are civic activists Art Bosworth (vice chair) and Maggie Morrissey.

The 13-acre mixed use development includes housing, offices, and green open space with an amphitheater connecting Cherry Creek North retail area and the shopping center to the creek. The project’s value is $1 billion.

East West Partners just released their first proposed design for the space. Next, they will facilitate extensive discussions with all the stakeholders on the project, including the City of Denver, Cherry Creek North businesses and adjacent neighborhoods.

Developers unveiled an expansive project on the west side
of the Cherry Creek Mall | BusinessDen via public records

Friday, December 17, 2021

Trends and Predictions: Colorado Election Experts Start the New Year

The Crossley Center at DU presents a Zoom conversation on January 13, 2022 at 11:00 am MT with a panel of top political, policy and academic experts discussing the political terrain in Colorado for the 2022 elections. Will the national trends boost local Republicans? Will Senator Bennet or Governor Polis be vulnerable? Which party has the advantage in the new congressional district? 

Join Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center, and the panel as they provide their opinions on the state of the election. 

  • Dick Wadhams, Denver Post columnist, CBS4 commentator, consultant, Republican
  • Sheila MacDonald, Consultant for candidates, local and statewide ballot issues, Democrat
  • Melanie Layton, State legislative lobbyist for two decades
  • Seth Masket, Professor and director of DU’s Center on American Politics

Join the Conversation
January 13, 2022
11:00 am MT


The Crossley Center’s public engagement program aims to attract thought leaders and policymakers with diverse perspectives and backgrounds to participate in an informed and civil public conversation. The purpose is to give DU audiences and Coloradans an understanding of the major influences affecting their politics and policies.

Is a Woman to Be the Next Mayor of Denver?

After 45 men have served as Denver mayor since 1859, it appears the time may be near for a woman to get the job. Out of nine early candidates mentioned in recent reports and conversations, six are women.

Is Denver at an inflection point? There is a sense the city is ready for a major, not just a mayoral, change. A new generation of voters is influencing elections. After 12 years, Mayor Michael Hancock is term-limited, and the city election is slightly more than a year away. It’s getting close to the time potential candidates, their handlers and supporters begin to test the waters. What does the early field look like? The city’s economic and civic stakeholders are scanning it for candidates that reflect their positions, which tend to be centrist and pragmatic.

A handful of candidates are subject to speculation about running for Denver’s mayoral seat in 2023. All the candidates are liberal, but the list runs from center-left to extreme left. Many more candidates may enter the race, and those listed below may try to adjust their ideological positions, but early impressions are:

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Democrats Begin the Year Way Behind

Since August as the Afghanistan withdrawal collapsed and the Delta variant surged, The Buzz has tracked President Biden’s approval decline and the growing and now near universal sentiment among political experts that the Democrats will lose the House of Representatives.

Previous The Buzz posts:

Although Biden’s approval appears to have bottomed out for now at 43 percent with a 7 percent negative tilt, it is accompanied by a Republican 3 percent advantage in the generic ballot test, which projects doom for the Democrats’ majority in the midterm election. Along with the relentless covid pandemic, now morphed into the Omicron variant, Biden is dealing with inflation raging at 7 percent, the highest in many voters’ memories (1982 CPI, 1991 core prices) and no relief is in sight.

The national political environment effects state politics. It just helped Republicans in Virginia and New Jersey. Will Colorado Republicans be able to take advantage of the favorable national conditions? Can they mount effective campaigns in Michael Bennet’s senate race or the two most competitive congressional seats – Ed Perlmutter’s 7th and the new 8th – or any of the statewide offices that Democrats now hold?

All of these issues will be explored on a Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research panel on January 13, 2022. See The Buzz: 2022 Colorado Election: Trends and Predictions.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Crossley Center Panel on Colorado Election 2022: Trends and Predictions

Colorado’s top political observers will present their analyses of the 2022 election year and offer their predictions at a Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research program on January 13, 2022. The 2022 results could change the majority control of the U.S. Congress and set the political direction of Colorado for the next decade. 

“Colorado Election 2022: Trends and Predictions” will be presented virtually via Zoom at 11:00 am (MT) on Thursday, January 13, 2022, by the University of Denver’s Crossley Center and the Center on American Politics at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

Crossley Center Director Floyd Ciruli and the panel will highlight national and local political and public opinion trends and how they will affect the Colorado election. Panel participants:

  • Dick Wadhams, Denver Post columnist, CBS4 commentator, consultant, Republican
  • Sheila MacDonald, Consultant for candidates, local and statewide ballot issues, Democrat
  • Melanie Layton, State legislative lobbyist for two decades
  • Seth Masket, Professor and director of DU’s Center on American Politics

Join the Conversation
January 13, 2022
11:00 am MT


The Crossley Center’s public engagement program aims to attract thought leaders and policymakers with diverse perspectives and backgrounds to participate in an informed and civil public conversation. The purpose is to give DU audiences and Coloradans an understanding of the major influences affecting their politics and policies.

Metro Denver Sales Tax Revenue Up 18 Percent

The seven-county Denver metropolitan area sales tax revenue continues its extraordinary recovery from the modest down year in 2020 (-3%). As of October, it is up 18.29 percent year-to-date above 2020 at this time. One beneficiary of the revenue increase, the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) will distribute about $70 million to more than 200 cultural organizations.

Denver continues to offer major financial support for capital improvements for cultural facilities. Its voters just approved (66%) several million in city bond improvements for the Denver Botanic Gardens, the Denver Zoo, Bonfils Theatre Complex, and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Also, during the last decade, including the pandemic, the Denver Art Museum matched $35 million in city bond funds with $140 million in private donations to renovate the Art Museum’s Ponti Building and build a new visitor center.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Is Denver in Decline?

The discussion about the state of Denver’s direction has generated a host of commentary (see: Denver Post: Is Denver in Decline or a Boom Town? Only the 2023 Election Will Tell.). At the December 9 Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research panel discussion, Denver City Councilperson Kendra Black detailed Denver’s many strengths. The best recent description was a Facebook post by a former manager at Visit Denver, Rich Grant. His reaction to the “declinists” follows:

Rich Grant

Ha ha! Are you all crazy? There’s a thousand people moving to Denver a week! Meow Wolf, McGregor Square, $54 million of new theatres at DCPA, 39 new gates at the 3rd busiest airport in the world, new parks, streets like Larimer closed to make pedestrian areas for outdoor cafes, new food halls from Golden to Aurora, a reimagined 16th street Mall coming soon, 5280 bike path around the city, electric bike and scooter rentals on every corner, new glass ballroom on the roof of the convention center, new national Western Center (which when the old folks catch up and finally build an arena there will be a year-round Red Rocks for 10,000 seat concerts with two rail stops) and 67 breweries and 366 dispensaries, dozens of dance bars and live music and a city ringed by all you g Neighborhoods like LoHi and RiNo and Baker and Golden Triangle and Ballpark. And even Aurora is becoming cool with an array of amazing ethnic restaurants. And have you seen Golden? Or old town Arvada? Ha ha!! The only ones wondering about Denver’s future are a bunch of old people wondering how come no one cares what they think anymore. 

The Stanley Marketplace in Aurora, Colorado

Will Polis Win Easily?

The latest Sabato Crystal Ball report continues to list Governor Jared Polis’ reelection status as lean Democratic. Because the turbulent national environment is benefitting Republicans in general and some of their local campaigns have improved, the report shifted the Democratic governor in Nevada to a toss-up from lean Democrat and the governor of New Mexico to lean from likely Democrat.

I agree with Sabato’s call. Polis is likely to win a second term. But it is not clear how easily. Two factors create doubts as to his smooth sailing. As they pointed out, national political conditions are trending toward Republicans. Inflation, COVID-19 and Joe Biden’s approval are all problems for incumbent Democrats. That is probably not enough by itself to change Colorado’s race dynamics, but it’s a factor. It especially helps Republican fundraising and grassroots activities. 

In addition, Polis has had some controversies, which could hurt him. For example, he doesn’t pay much in taxes and the state had a poor administration of unemployment compensation. But the leading Republican candidate, Heidi Ganahl, does not as yet have much traction and is underfunded. Of course, Polis will spend whatever he thinks is needed to win.

However, Democrats will remain nervous. Both the Senate and selective congressional races in Colorado could be highly contested, creating Republican enthusiasm that will benefit the entire ticket.

Gov. Jared Polis at a news conference in Denver,
 Mar. 9, 2021 | David Zalubowski/AP

Monday, December 13, 2021

Is Denver at a Political Inflection Point?

In 2023, Denver will elect a new mayor. Michael Hancock will leave after 12 years as mayor, but twenty in city government, having started in council in 2003. Will the transition be mostly a shift in personnel, but not priorities, or much more dramatic like 1983 when Denver elected Federico Peña after 14 years of Bill McNichols and 2003 with the election of John Hickenlooper after 12 years of Wellington Webb? Those were major shifts governing philosophy, personnel and priorities. 

Source: Crossley Center 2021

Wall Street Journal Changes Pollsters

In a front page story on Wednesday, December 8, the Wall Street Journal highlighted the work of its new pollsters: John Anzalone of ALG Research, a Democratic pollster for Joe Biden, and Tony Fabrizio of Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, a Republican pollster for Donald Trump. They both polled for then-candidates’ presidential campaigns and conduct polls today for them. They replaced longtime WSJ pollsters Democrat Peter Hart (or members of his firm) of Hart Research Associates and Republican Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.

The WSJ claims the new pollsters “have stood apart with iconoclastic approaches and cutting-edge techniques that have responded to the moment and delivered clear results for their clients.” They will use larger sample sizes and “cutting-edge sampling methodology.”

The WSJ had partnered with NBC News for three decades and are now on their own (see Steve Kornacki election). The last joint poll conducted in 2020 showed Joe Biden winning by 11 points. He was up 7 in what was a very close race in electoral votes. The entire polling industry has been struggling with the election results, which reflect, it is believed, non-responses and missed Trump voters.

The latest WSJ poll did not break any new ground. “Voters Signal Peril for Democrats” is old polling news, but the comments of the two pollsters were a lot more adversarial than before. The reporters and editors will have more work finding a scientifically-based interpretation between two highly engaged candidate advocates and protectors.

Steve Kornacki in 2020 election | MSNBC photo

Friday, December 10, 2021

Mayor’s Race in LA Focused on Homeless Crisis. Candidates Move to More Tough Than Love.

The 2023 Denver’s mayor’s race is beginning, and homelessness is a major issue. It now dominates the 2022 mayor’s race in Los Angeles. The following report by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research describes the issue’s impact in Los Angeles politics.


After years of massive expenditures on housing and services with no visible relief from the growing homeless problem, LA voters are looking for near-term solutions. They want to clear the streets and sidewalks.

A new poll sponsored by the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Business Council Institute shows that voters consider homelessness as the city’s top problem (94%), that it’s gotten worse (79%), and by 57 percent to 30 percent they opt for short-term shelter sites, contrary to the positions of homeless advocates who only stress long-term housing.

The poll was conducted by Peter Hart for the LA Times.

Although voters continue to express empathy for the homeless, they are clearly impatient and not satisfied with the region’s leadership. It has gotten the attention of the leading candidates in next year’s mayor’s race to replace Mayor Eric Garcetti, who’s term-limited and has been nominated to be the ambassador to India by President Biden. As the LA Times relates, after interviewing the leading candidates – U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, City Attorney Mike Feuer, Councilman Kevin de Leon and Councilman Joe Buscaino – the general sentiment was:

“Bass (U.S. Representative), Feuer (city attorney), Councilman Kevin de Leon and Councilman Joe Buscaino are among those who say the city’s immediate focus should be on short-term options that can help get people off the streets as soon as possible.”

Read: L.A. voters angry, frustrated over homeless crisis, demand faster action, poll finds

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Denver Post: Is Denver in Decline or a Boom Town? Only the 2023 Election Will Tell.

The Denver Post printed the guest column, “Is Denver in a Decline or a Boom? 2023 Election Will Tell,” which describes Denver as a city of two images – in long-term decline or a growing, evolving and investing in its future. Denver is at an inflection point. The election in 2023 and the politics running up to it will reveal the dominate image. Read the column here.

A homeless camp near the Capitol, Jan. 2020 | Andy Cross/The Denver Post

Vandals deface the Capitol, July 2020 | Photo: CBS

Friday, December 3, 2021

Colorado Election 2021: Will Results Impact Cities and Schools?

An encampment in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood,
July 2020 | Eric Lubbers/The Colorado Sun
Are school boards the new political battleground? Is Aurora’s politics competitive and shifting right? Is Denver in decline?

Join city officials, election experts and a political reporter for a roundtable discussion of what happened in the November 2 local elections and what it means for our schools and communities for the next two years.

Community members give comments against mask
mandates during a Douglas County Board of Education
meeting,  Aug. 2021 | AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Pos
“Colorado Election 2021: What Happened to Cities and Schools?” will be presented virtually via Zoom at 11:00 am (MT) on Thursday, December 9, 2021 by the University of Denver’s Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

Crossley Center Director Floyd Ciruli and the panel will analyze the election results, shifts in public opinion and the effect on the politics of Denver, Aurora and Colorado’s school boards. 

Panel participants:

  • Kendra Black, Denver City Council
  • Robin Kniech, Denver City Council
  • Sean Walsh, Political and municipal consultant
  • Lynea Hansen, Political consultant, local governments
  • Marianne Goodland, Colorado Politics reporter

Join the Conversation
December 9, 2021
11:00 am MT


The Crossley Center’s public engagement program aims to attract thought-leaders and policymakers with diverse perspectives and backgrounds to participate in an informed and civil public conversation. The purpose is to give DU audiences and Coloradans an understanding of the major influences affecting their politics and policies.