Coffman Can’t Spin His Way Out Of Losing To Romanoff Again

Rep. Mike Coffman.

Rep. Mike Coffman.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports, time to break out the hip waders in the marquee CD-6 race:

Congressman Mike Coffman’s campaign is claiming momentum after winning the June fundraising period over Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff in one of the most competitive House races of the 2014 cycle.

Coffman’s campaign brought in $405,000 between June 5 and June 30, more than Romanoff, who raised $373,000 in the latest reporting period…

The problem is, fundraising performance is generally measured by the quarter.

The press release from Coffman’s campaign didn’t mention that it brought in $742,000 during the year’s second quarter as a whole, which is $100,000 less than the $842,000 quarterly haul Romanoff’s campaign announced Monday. [Pols emphasis]

Mike Coffman's campaign spin notwithstanding, this Q2 of 2014 was the fourth straight quarter in which Democrat Andrew Romanoff has outraised one of the nation's most vulnerable incumbents. Romanoff is almost $400,000 ahead of Coffman now in terms of cash on hand–$2.67 million to $2.3 million. It makes sense, given that Coffman's lackluster fundraising is increasingly casting a shadow on his campaign, that they would try to find some way of spinning this result. In the one month of June, Coffman can plausibly say he barely beat Romanoff.

But as you can see, reporters aren't buying the spin. And when that happens, sometimes the spin becomes the story.

Udall Outraises Gardner in First Full Head-to-Head Quarter

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

As Fox 31's Eli Stokols reports:

Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall raised $3.1 million in the second quarter of the year and now has $5.7 million in cash on hand as the race against Republican challenger Cory Gardner enters a more competitive phase with the election less than four months away.

Udall, who is seeking a second term, has raised more than $13 million overall to support his reelection effort.

Gardner, a congressman from Yuma who didn’t enter the senate race until late February, announced last week that his campaign raised $2.7 million in the year’s second quarter and has $3.4 million cash on hand.

The campaign for Congressman Cory Gardner will try hard to spin these numbers in a favorable manner, but this is bad news for Republicans however you slice it. When Gardner entered the race for Senate a few months ago, national Republicans were crowing that they finally had a (theoretically) likable candidate who could raise lots of campaign cash on his own. Gardner replaced a field of Republican Senate candidates who had been historically inept at raising money, but Gardner nevertheless faced significant expectations that he has not been able to meet.

This was Gardner's first full fundraising quarter — with all the low-hanging fruit still available — and he still failed to outraise incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. And don't forget: Gardner has been virtually invisible since announcing his candidacy, skipping public appearances to focus on raising money.

None of this means that Gardner may end up being underfunded by November, but it does call into question just how excited national Republican donors are about Gardner's campaign. And as the 2014 election season rumbles on, Republicans will soon have to decide whether to double-down on Gardner financially…or focus any extra resources on states like Montana instead.

Post Does Good Job Sorting Out Past Romanoff-Coffman Immigration Positions

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Denver Post reporter Kurtis Lee did a good job over the weekend of sorting out the past immigration positions of Rep. Mike Coffman and his Democratic challenger, Andrew Romanoff.

Lee noted that Romanoff pushed compromise immigration legislation through the Colorado legislature in 2006, in order to deflect a more extreme immigration measure from making the Colorado ballot and being locked in the state Constitution.

Lee is among the only journalists who've reported on the context of Romanoff's 2006 immigration legislation, which was opposed by some immigrant advocates.

During the summer of 2006, in his first term as state House speaker, Romanoff faced a critical decision: Have a broadly worded initiative appear on the November ballot that would strip state benefits and even some medical services from those in the country illegally — including children — or strike a legislative compromise.

Lee reported that Romanoff "chose the latter option and staved off a late effort to revive the ballot initiative," which was supported by Coffman.

Among the proponents of the ballot initiative that didn't make it to voters was Coffman, the state treasurer at the time.

Coffman later headed to Congress to represent the then staunchly conservative 6th Congressional District, touting positions as a hardliner on immigration reform and following in the footsteps of his predecessor and a man he called his "hero" — Republican Tom Tancredo

Moving forward in time, Lee again correctly reports that Romanoff supports the comprehensive-immigration-reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate, while Coffman backs, in Lee's words, "piecemeal reforms." Lee does a good job of clarifying that Coffman doesn't just stand for vague "reform" but a piecemeal approach, with the pieces glaringly undefined.

Lee should have noted that just over a year ago, Coffman announced his grand support, in a much-read Denver Post op-ed, for "comprehensive immigration reform." This startled the three people paying attention because it ran counter to Coffman's past positions.

But now Coffman's "comprehensive immigration reform" is out the window, and he wants piecemeal legislation. Coffman has said that a "comprehensive approach doesn’t have to be a comprehensive bill," but if you've ever had a conversation about immigration among people with differing views on the topic, you understand why that's not true. Comprehensive reform allows for compromises to be folded together, with different pet issues included, so everyone can hold a nostril or two and vote yes, like Senators in their compromise by a 68-32 margin.

Lee, who's leaving The Post Wed., probably won't be able to delve into the question of whether piecemeal reform, with only a small piece (citizenship for minors via military service) actually on the table, is more than empty rhetoric, especially with the Senate bill ready to go. But maybe another reporter will pick up the thread.

State Courts Are Defending Public Pension COLA Contracts, (Including Colorado PERA Pension COLA Contracts.)

(Colorado, Montana, Arizona, New Jersey, Illinois, Rhode Island, Washington, California, Oregon.)

Contrary to the public pension contract breach propaganda du jour, state courts are upholding contractual rights to "automatic" public pension COLA benefits.

Lately, a few proponents of taking accrued pension COLA benefits from pensioners have been trying to plant (in politician's heads) the false meme that courts are just fine with breach of public pension COLA contractual obligations.  Everyone is doing it!  Jump on the bandwagon!

Well, I follow developments in U.S. public pension litigation more closely than most, and this claim struck me as ludicrous.  So, I decided to locate and examine the recent pension COLA decisions myself.

Readers should know that a well-oiled, well-funded, corporate public pension "crisis" noise machine exists in the U.S.  The aim of this machine is to divert attention from the $80 billion in corporate welfare that is given away by state and local governments in the U.S., and try to focus attention on public pension unfunded liabilities (underfunded by approximately $40 billion annually.)  If successful, this effort will help protect U.S. corporate welfare.

One such propaganda piece was recently produced by a university research center (receiving corporate financial support from Goldman Sachs no less.)  The paper's author is "surprised" that courts are "upholding" COLA cuts by state legislatures!  Oh my!  But, this "surprise" is unwarranted, as it is contradicted by reality.

In this article I provide excerpts from recent state court decisions in public pension COLA cases, as well as links to the cases.  A brief examination of recent state court decisions will quickly debunk the "courts are just fine with breach of COLA contracts" meme.  This article concludes by providing background information relating to "automatic" and "ad hoc" public pension COLA benefits in the United States.

In 2010, a number of Colorado politicians, state officials and Colorado union officials decided that they wanted to break the COLA contractual obligation in the Colorado PERA pension plan. Yes, Colorado public sector unions have advocated for a breach of the contracts of their retired union "brothers and sisters."  (Remember that retirees no longer pay union dues.  In my view, Colorado public sector unions have sullied the U.S. Labor Movement and exacerbated income inequality in the U.S.)

The hope of the proponents of breaking Colorado PERA public pension COLA contracts was that Colorado courts would not know the difference between "automatic" and "ad hoc" public pension COLAs.  Their hope was that Colorado courts would fail to discover this difference in types of public pension COLA benefits and sanction the desired Colorado PERA pension contract breach.  (Some of those who participated in this scheme to help Colorado governments escape legal debts were Colorado state employees.)

In 2010, these public sector and union officials colluded to break the contracts of Colorado PERA pensioners and attempted to "claw back" accrued Colorado PERA pension COLA benefits (an annual percentage increase in the PERA base benefit that is specified in Colorado law.)  Colorado PERA pensioners are suing the pension administrator, Colorado PERA, and the State of Colorado for the pension contract breach (Justus v. State.)

Public pension administration and jurisprudence are extremely complex subjects.  The proponents of the Colorado PERA pension contract breach have hoped to use this complexity to their advantage.  Statutory public pension COLA provisions may be "ad hoc" COLA benefits that may be legally adjusted by public pension plan sponsors, or "automatic" public pension COLA benefits that are part of public pension contractual obligations.  Any diminishment or impairment of an "automatic" public pension plan COLA benefit by a public pension plan sponsor (such as the State of Colorado or Colorado PERA) is constitutionally impermissible. 

In legal briefs that the proponents of breaking Colorado PERA COLA contractual obligations have filed in the case, Justus v. State, no mention is made of the existence of "ad hoc" and "automatic" public pension COLAs.  Why is that? 

Since 2010, a number of states have attempted to escape statutory "automatic" public pension COLA contractual obligations.  However, state courts are slowly, but surely, learning the distinction between contractual "auto COLAs" and "ad hoc COLAs."  State courts are discovering that "automatic" public pension COLAs are no less a contractual obligation of public pension plan sponsors than are public pension base benefits.  State courts are upholding the Rule of Law in the United States:

COLORADO

Colorado Court of Appeal's Decision in Justus v. State (October 11, 2012): “We consider McPhail and Bills dispositive (indisputably bringing to a conclusion a legal controversy) of whether plaintiffs here have a contractual right to a particular COLA.”

Colorado PERA officials in written testimony to the Joint Budget Committee (December 16, 2009): “The General Assembly cannot decrease the COLA (absent actuarial necessity) because it is part of the contractual obligations that accrue under a pension plan protected under the Colorado Constitution Article II, Section 11 and the United States Constitution Article 1, Section 10 for vested contractual rights.”

http://www.kentlambert.com/Files/PERA_JBC_Hearing_Responses-12-16-2009_Final.pdf

http://saveperacola.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/2012-10-11-judgment-reversed-and-case.pdf

MONTANA

Montana District Court GABA (COLA) taking injunction (December 27, 2013):

"The legislative reduction of the GABA implicates a fundamental constitutional right and must be evaluated under the strict scrutiny standard, 'whereby the government must show that the law is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest.'" 

"Montana law treats public employee pensions as contractual obligations."

http://www.mea-mft.org/Uploads/files/News%20Issues%20Actions/GABAorderTRS.pdf

ARIZONA

Arizona Supreme Court (February 20, 2014 Decision):

"After such vesting, '[the pension] contract cannot be unilaterally modified nor can one party to a contract alter its terms without the assent of the other party.'”

"Smith is inapposite.  Assuming the case was correctly decided, we note that it reflects the general principle that statutory provisions do not create contractual rights.  But statutorily established retirement benefits are an exception to this rule."

"We affirm the decision of the trial court."

http://www.irtaonline.org/documents/ArizonaPensionRuling.pdf

NEW JERSEY

New Jersey Appellate Court (June 26, 2014):

“'It is not the courts' role to run the pension systems,' Reisner wrote. 'Our responsibility is to interpret and apply the constitution in light of the evidence, and we will do so.'"

"Under settled law, for the state to be able to break the COLA contract, it must show at the trial court that the harm to retirees is not 'substantial,' that the government is breaking its agreement for a 'reasonable public purpose,' and that the freeze is related to 'appropriate governmental objectives.'

https://burypensions.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/berg-decision.pdf

ILLINOIS

Illinois Supreme Court Decision (July 3, 2014) in a recent decision finding that retiree health benefits are constitutionally protected as public pension benefits:

“Under settled Illinois law, where there is any question as to legislative intent and the clarity of the language of a pension statute, it must be liberally construed in favor of the rights of the pensioner.”

(Colorado Supreme Court: “As was noted in Endsley v. Public Employees Retirement Association . . . (1974) ambiguities appearing in statutes regulating pension and retirement funds are construed favorably toward the employee.” (Colorado Supreme Court in Taylor v. PERA, November 17, 1975.)

From the dissent of one Illinois Justice hearing the case:

“Stated otherwise, by its plain language, the pension protection clause prohibits legislative action that diminishes or impairs pension benefits by altering the terms of the contract governing the pension.”

http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2014/115811.pdf

RHODE ISLAND

Rhode Island Superior Court (April 16, 2014):

"Upon retirement, under Rhode Island law, COLAs and pension benefits are one and the same, providing retirees with a vested interest in the benefits which may not be altered retroactively."

"Because there has been a bargained-for exchange, supported by consideration, this Court finds that there is an enforceable implied-in-fact contract between Plaintiffs and the State."

"Furthermore, our Supreme Court’s jurisprudence supports a finding that Plaintiffs possess protected contractual rights in receiving a pension and a COLA."

"Here, having retired, the Plaintiffs have fully performed.  A valid contract exists between Plaintiffs and the State, entitling Plaintiffs to their pension benefits."

http://www.courts.ri.gov/Courts/SuperiorCourt/DecisionsOrders/decisions/12-3166.pdf

WASHINGTON

Washington Superior Court for Thurston County (November 9, 2012):

"In 2011, the Legislature amended these statutes again and repealed the UCOLA for all active and retired members.  It did not offer a benefit in exchange for terminating the COLA."

"Two cases are dispositive to this Court, Jacoby and Navlet.  In each of those cases, our Supreme Court rejected employers' attempts to reserve the right to unilaterally withdraw vested retirement benefits."

"This Court must follow the binding precedent of Jacoby and Navlet.  Under that precedent, the State is prohibited from reserving the right to unilaterally terminate the UCOLA.  The UCOLA was vested because employees began work based, partially, on the promise of a UCOLA.  Further, the parties agree that the State did not offer any off-setting benefit when it terminated the UCOLA.  The State's actions therefore violated existing law and summary judgment to the employees is warranted as a matter of law."

http://arnoldfoundation.org/sites/default/files/courtDocs/WASHINGTON-WA-Education-Assn-et-al-v-State-Retirement-Systems-et-al-11-09-2012-Opinion.pdf

(My comment: Colorado PERA's former General Counsel and current Executive Director Greg Smith, August 17, 2005, Rocky Mountain News:

“His (Colorado PERA General Counsel Greg Smith) briefing paper said 'there has never been a finding in Colorado that the state has reserved its power to make changes' in PERA's benefit structure.”

"Smith said in his opinion that 'other (non-Colorado) courts have set a high burden to meet the necessity threshold.'"

"The PERA board, however, relying on a legal opinion by General Counsel Greg Smith, thinks benefits cannot be cut for any active PERA member.  That means not just current retirees and workers who are eligible to retire but the brand-new employee who has put less than a year of contributions into the plan."

"Smith argued, however, that there is no precedent for declaring an actuarial emergency unless a pension fund has a serious cash liquidity problem."

http://m.rockymountainnews.com/news/2005/aug/17/span-classdeeplinksredpart-four-the-pera-puzzle/)

CALIFORNIA

California Superior Court, County of Santa Clara (San Jose), (December 19, 2013):

(My comment: Note that the City of San Jose, California, in its efforts to escape public pension COLA contractual obligations, did not try do deny that the public pension COLA benefit is a contractual obligation, as have Colorado politicians.  The City of San Jose argued for the right to be able to suspend the COLAs in an "emergency.")

"A public employee's pension constitutes an element of compensation, and a vested contractual right to pension benefits accrues upon acceptance of employment.  Such a pension right may not be destroyed, once vested, without impairing a contractual obligation of the employing public entity (Betts)."

"Section 1510-A (COLAs) provides that, if the Council adopts a resolution declaring 'a fiscal and service level emergency,' the City may, for a period of up to five years, suspend all or part of the COLA payments due to all retirees."

"The City argues that Valdes supports the notion that vested rights can be suspended in an emergency.  There are several difficulties with this argument."

"In authorizing denial of benefits rather than mere deferral, Section 1510-A exceeds the scope of what Valdes contemplates as potentially allowable.  Accordingly, Section 1510-A is unlawful and invalid."

http://www.sanjoseca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/25332

OREGON

The Oregon COLA-taking legislation was enacted last Fall (2013.)  Under a provision of the bill that broke the pension COLA contract the legal challenge was sent directly to the Oregon Supreme Court.  Just nine years ago the Oregon Supreme Court addressed this question, the contractual nature of public pension COLA benefits (in 2005.)

From the Oregon Supreme Court Decision in Strunk v. PERB (March 8, 2005):

"We therefore conclude that the elimination of annual COLAs from the 'fixed' service retirement allowance, as set out in Oregon Laws 2003, chapter 67, section 10(3), is inconsistent with the legislature's promise set out in ORS 238.360(1) (2001)."

" . . . Strunk and Sartain petitioners are correct in their assertion that the provision of the 2003 PERS legislation that directs PERB to not apply annual COLAs to certain retired members' 'fixed' service retirement allowances breaches the contrary obligation of the PERS contract to do so; that provision also is declared void and of no effect."

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=3500629816084156134&q=strunk+v.+PERB+pension&hl=en&as_sdt=4006

What about the South Dakota and Minnesota COLA decisions?

The South Dakota and Minnesota legislatures both passed bills in recent years that reduced public pension COLA benefits.  The Defendants in the Colorado COLA case, Justus v. State, cited these state bills as examples of successful state legislation reducing pension COLA benefits.  But, in its 2012 Decision in the case Justus v. State, the Colorado Court of Appeals noted that public pension COLA benefits in South Dakota and Minnesota are in essence "ad hoc" COLAs.

Colorado Court of Appeals: "Lastly, defendants point to two decisions by trial courts in other jurisdictions that have rejected contentions that the legislature’s modification of public employee retirees’ COLA violates the Contract Clause.  Those cases, however, are distinguishable.  In Swanson, the court held that the plaintiffs did not have a contractual right to a specific statutory COLA formula.  But in that case the relevant statute required only the use of certain procedures (tied to the level of the pension fund’s investment returns) to calculate “whether an adjustment is payable,” on an annual basis.  It did not set forth a specific rate of increase.  Here (in Colorado), however, the COLA formula was never tied to the level of PERA funding until after sections 19 and 20 of Senate Bill 10-001 took effect.  Rather, the formula in effect immediately before the bill’s enactment provided for a specific rate: “[t]he cumulative increase applied to benefits paid . . . shall be the total percent derived by multiplying three and one-half percent, compounded annually, times the number of years such benefit has been effective after March 1, 2000.”  In Tice, the court considered a COLA statute providing that “‘all benefits except those depending on the member’s contributions shall be annually increased by the improvement factor.’”  The court concluded that the statute mandated only that a contribution must be increased by an unspecified amount, which the legislature was free to change.  Here, as noted, the prior (Colorado) COLA statute established not merely the payment of a COLA, but the payment of a specified percentage."

http://saveperacola.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/2012-10-11-judgment-reversed-and-case.pdf

NASRA:

"Minnesota is the sole state that protects pensions on the basis of 'promissory estoppel,' that is, public pensions are protected against reduction or other impairment only where an individual can show that he or she justifiably relied on the state’s promise of benefits and was harmed by the change."

http://www.nasra.org/Files/Articles/Buck1404.pdf

Some background materials on public pension COLAs:

NASRA:

"The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) requires public pension plans to disclose assumptions regarding COLAs, including whether the COLA is automatic or ad hoc, and to include the cost of COLAs in projections of pension benefit payments."

(My comment: Thus, it should be a simple matter to locate a public pension plan's characterization of its statutory COLA benefit.)

http://www.nasra.org/resources/COLA%20IB%20060512.pdf

NASRA:

"According to the Public Fund Survey, approximately three-fourths of pension plans sponsored by states and local governments provide some form of an automatic cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA), i.e., one that does not require specific approval of or action by the plan sponsor (the legislature or city council)."

http://www.nasra.org/cola

In 2001, the actuarial firm, Buck Consultants provided a report to the Legislative Audit Committee of the Colorado General Assembly.  In agreement with a recent statement of Colorado PERA employee Koren Holden, the 2001 Buck Consultants report clearly identifies the Colorado PERA 3.5 percent COLA as “automatic.”  The report also refers to PERA's “guaranteed benefits at retirement,” and the “fixed” COLA, that is “compounded annually for each year of retirement.”  The Buck Consultants report identifies the 3.5% PERA COLA as “automatic,” contrasting the PERA COLA with an “ad hoc” COLA “as approved by Legislature.”

http://www.nctr.org/pdf/coloradodcdbstudy.pdf

Koren Holden, Colorado PERA Project Manager, in Colorado PERA's on-line video series:

"This video describes the methods and assumptions used to calculate the net pension liability . . ."  "The projections should be based on the benefit terms and legal agreements existing as of the pension plan's fiscal year end."  "The benefits should also incorporate the effects of projected . . . automatic postemployment benefit increases such as the annual increase provided by Colorado PERA."  "In addition, ad hoc post-employment benefit changes should be included if they are considered to be essentially automatic. "

https://www.copera.org/pera/employer/gasbvideos.htm#CalcNPL

As we have seen, HB93-1324 struck the former “ad hoc” COLA language from Colorado law. The language stricken in the bill: “(2) Cost of living increases in retirement benefits and survivor benefits shall be made only upon approval by the general assembly."

GASB:

"Questions and Answers Governmental Accounting Standards Board."

"The intent of Statement 25, paragraph 36a, in distinguishing between automatic and ad hoc COLAs, is to REQUIRE (my emphasis) that actuaries include in the scope of their projections any COLAs that are CLEARLY AUTOMATIC (my emphasis) — that is, COLAs embedded in the plan for which there is NO DISCRETION (my emphasis) or condition as to timing or amount.  This criterion is intended to be strictly construed, as a basis for a minimum standard."

http://gasb.org/cs/BlobServer?blobkey=id&blobnocache=true&blobwhere=1175827486295&blobheader=application/pdf&blobcol=urldata&blobtable=MungoBlobs

From the Governmental Accounting Standards Board website:

"New GASB Pension Statements to Bring about Major Improvements in Financial Reporting."

"Measuring the Pension Liability."

"Provisions for automatic cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) and other automatic benefit changes (which generally are written into the pension benefit terms) will also continue to be included in projections.  On the other hand, ad hoc COLAs and other ad hoc benefit changes—which are made at the discretion of the government—will only be included in projections if they occur with such regularity that they are effectively automatic."

http://gasb.org/cs/ContentServer?site=GASB&c=Document_C&pagename=GASB%2FDocument_C%2FGASBDocumentPage&cid=1176160140567

August 2, 2010, (former Colorado Governor) Ritter Administration Letter to GASB on contractual public pension obligations:

“The criteria suggested as the basis for differentiating these COLAs [automatic] versus ad-hoc COLAs is the statutes that exist as of the date of the employer’s financial statements.”

“The essential difference between an automatic COLA and an ad hoc COLA is the legal requirement; with this core difference there is no way for the two not to be substantively different.  The legal difference in this instance is critical to the determination of whether the government is unable to avoid the surrender of resources to meet the obligation.”

http://www.gasb.org/cs/ContentServer?site=GASB&c=Document_C&pagename=GASB%2FDocument_C%2FGASBDocumentPage&cid=1176157387791)

The National Institute on Retirement Security on “automatic” and “ad hoc” public pension COLAs: “One key design feature of a COLA is whether it is automatic or ad hoc in nature.  An automatic COLA means the retiree’s benefit increases automatically every year by a certain percentage.  An ad hoc COLA is granted at the discretion of the plan sponsor, usually when the fund is in a well-funded position and investment gains have exceeded expectation.”

http://www.nirsonline.org/storage/nirs/documents/Lessons%20Learned/final_june_29_report_lessonsfromwellfundedpublicpensions1.pdf

August 8, 2012, Douglas Greenfield: “The theory behind that is that a pension that has a COLA is the equivalent of a fixed pension . . . that you could just have a higher fixed pension and no COLA . . . and is just a method by which you are providing the benefit.”  Greenfield participated in a panel discussion hosted by the National Conference of State Legislatures. The panel discussion was titled: “How Much Can States Change Existing Retirement Policy?”

http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/labor/how-much-can-states-change-existing-retirement.aspx

From the Colorado PERA “History of PERA Legislation” memorandum:

HB 00-1458 – "Established 3.5% compounded annual automatic COLA effective March 2001." "Prior to this date, the annual COLA equaled the lower of the actual inflation rate or annual 3.5% cumulative increases since retirement."

(My comment: Note Colorado PERA’s use of the word “automatic” to describe the COLA.)

http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite?blobcol=urldata&blobheader=application%2Fpdf&blobkey=id&blobtable=MungoBlobs&blobwhere=1251603807998&ssbinary=true

From the December 31, 2000 PERA CAFR:

“The Board agreed to support legislation designed to encourage earlier retirement and reduce the state’s costs, provided that this legislation would also change PERA’s post-retirement adjustment to an automatic increase of 3.5 percent compounded annually and increase the contribution to PERA’s Health Care Trust Fund once PERA is fully funded.  Since House Bill 00-1458 included these provisions, the Board supported this bill.”

Keith Brainard, Research Director, National Association of State Retirement Administrators testifies before the a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives (February 14, 2011):

“Only 30-40 years ago, most public plans were financed primarily on a pay-as-you-go basis.”

“Even after the most recent and unprecedented financial downturn, most state and local government pension trusts have plenty of assets to continue to pay promised benefits for years, and values already have rebounded sharply since the market low.” “The percentage of all state and local government spending on pensions has hovered around three percent during the last decade.”

http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/pdf/Brainard02142011.pdf

NASRA COLA Issue Brief:

http://www.nasra.org/files/Issue%20Briefs/NASRACOLA%20Brief.pdf

Support the Rule of Law in Colorado at saveperacola.com.

First Woman to Run for Sheriff of Mesa County…..What !?!

2014 July 9 Media Blast

I am running for Mesa County Sheriff as a Write in and have been running since I announced my candidacy in public at the Cinco de Mayo Main Street fair on May 4, 2014.  Why did you not know about my candidacy?

I have been totally ignored by all Grand Valley media.  It is unheard of for a woman to run for the top “man’s” job.  It is unheard of for a Registered Nurse to have the audacity to run for Sheriff.  Being a woman and a Registered Nurse gives me the foundational knowledge to be Sheriff.  Being a “Write-In” candidate was a difficult choice but I wanted nothing to inhibit the essential reasons a woman and a Nurse should run, i.e. impartiality, objectivity and independence.

Of all the men that are still running, none have my years of public service.  None have my supervisory experience.  None have my budget control experience.  None have lived and worked in a war zone and prepared for casualties.  None have worked for better care for our local vets.  None understand life and death decisions and working with families as I have.  I have had a patient-centered career. I have had a community outreach career.  I have lived and worked in a multi-national and multi-cultural setting successfully.  I have worked almost a decade inside a US government agency, the Veterans Hospital and I understand this community and its needs for now and the future far better than any other candidate.

I was President of Mesa County Western Colorado Congress for over 2 years and unfortunately, one of only a handful of Republican members.  In that time I scrutinized, probed and prodded the present and future issues our county will be facing.  The cultural diversity of our county is an enormous strength and a bane if misunderstood or mishandled.  Trust is imperative.

King is under investigation.  Trust will be a problem for him.  There are three men “petitioning” on to the ballot, two of which chickened out on running until King was under investigation.  Trust and courage is a problem.  Only one petitioner started before the primary and is still collecting names.  One other “write-in” couldn’t find the Ute Water building for the Mesa County Sheriff Association forum that was pre-scheduled weeks in advance, now has a “Tea Party” endorsement.  He is not a long term planner by any stretch of the imagination and most of what he talked about at the forum when he did get there was his own lack of knowledge about how to run a Sheriff’s office and using dogs.

I have a vision for the Mesa County Sheriff’s position.  Without trustworthy, committed and sure-footed leadership, this county will suffer.  Leadership requires projecting planning into the future and trying to anticipate, as much as possible, unforeseen situations that could have an adverse effect on our community.

The Grand Valley is a unique area, in a geologically unique position between two of the Southwest’s biggest cities.  If those cities call for more power or more water, the Sheriff’s Office will bear the impact from ramifications that could occur.  An example to easily visualize is a blackout due to lack of electricity.  A community left in the dark is a vulnerable community.  Prevention is the key.  As in healthcare, prevention reduces costs and ensures stable longevity. 

Despite the media’s efforts, I have been and will continue to run a grassroots effort to be elected by Mesa County citizens.  I will put my efforts into achieving a long term plan to ensure a viable, safe and healthy community.  Who better to put your trust, then in a Registered Nurse?

A real choice for Sheriff, Write-In Benita Phillips for Sheriff.  If you want to help me please email me at ranchita3553@gmail.com.

Chief Justice (retired) New Hampshire Supreme Court: States Must Honor Public Pension Contracts.

"I grew up in a world where a deal was a deal.  If public retirement benefits are changed or withdrawn for employees already in the system, we will lose our ability to attract new employees to public jobs. Uncertainty is not our friend."

"Other states have addressed this concern by making changes prospectively; that is, only having them apply to employees who join the public work force after changes are adopted into law.  At least that puts people on notice and honors expectations."

"At the end of the day, I don't think it's fair or just to change the rules after the game begins.  New Hampshire is a special place where public commitments have meanings.  We should honor them."

"John Broderick Jr., a former chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, notes that the views expressed above are his own and not necessarily those of the University of New Hampshire Law School, where he serves as dean."

http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20140513-OPINION-405130358

Colorado PERA officials in written testimony to the Joint Budget Committee (December 16, 2009): “The General Assembly cannot decrease the COLA (absent actuarial necessity) because it is part of the contractual obligations that accrue under a pension plan protected under the Colorado Constitution Article II, Section 11 and the United States Constitution Article 1, Section 10 for vested contractual rights.”

http://www.kentlambert.com/Files/PERA_JBC_Hearing_Responses-12-16-2009_Final.pdf

Colorado Supreme Court, in Denver Police Pension and Relief Board, 1961:  When conditions are satisfied for retirement . . . . "at that time retirement pay becomes a vested right of which the person entitled thereto cannot be deprived; it has ripened into a full contractual obligation." "Whether it be in the field of sports or in the halls of the legislature it is not consonant with American traditions of fairness and justice to change the ground rules in the middle of the game."

Colorado Court of Appeal's Decision in Justus v. State (October 11, 2012): “We consider McPhail and Bills dispositive (indisputably bringing to a conclusion a legal controversy) of whether plaintiffs here have a contractual right to a particular COLA.”

Support the Rule of Law in Colorado at saveperacola.com

Corporate-Driven Education Reform Experiments Failing in Denver and Around the Country

I decided to add to my recent articles about the Colorado State Board of Education primary in Denver after reading an article today in Chalkbeat Colorado, a national non-profit education news agency. In the article "8 struggling schools opt in to Colorado's new turnaround network."  Ashley Jochim, research analyst at the Center on Reinventing Publication Education and one of the policy experts advising the states the following: 


                                                                                                                                                   Stacey Jocim, CRPE

"But Jochim said the resources will only be fruitful if principals are allowed to adopt the best ideas, even if they run counter to district policies – something that could be a challenge when it comes to personnel, budget, and curriculum. 

If Colorado stumbles, it won't be alone, Jochim said.

 "We're not in a place where anyone has done [a turnaround network] right,"* she said.

*Bold added for emphasis.                                                                                       Link:  http://tinyurl.com/okb5gdp

 


Since the beginning of the now-Senator Michael Bennet's term as DPS superintendent, Denver Public Schools administration has pursued an aggressive approach to public schools that includes firing and displacing teachers, closing schools, and privatizing public schools by putting control in the hand of private companies that use public and private funds to run those schools. Bennet hired Mr. Boasberg to be the COO of DPS by attracting him away from his position as the VP of Corporate Affiairs at a multi-billion dollar corporation (a background much like Bennet's). In addition Boasberg chooses to reside and Boulder and will not send his own children to the District he oversees.  

 

DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg                                Boasberg and Senator Michael Bennet

                              


What is Turnaround?

For a background on Turnaround, Turnaround is a status that is granted through US Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan's landmark education policy, Race to the Top. Much of Race to the Top included money to backfill the budgets of states, districts, and schools who were suffering devastating cuts during the Great Recession. Another component was school turnarounds to be funded under the School Improvement Grants. In order to receive funding for Turnarounds, a school must be in the lowest 5% of rankings on high-stakes standardized tests like CSAPTCAP, and PARCC. The federal government promised $5 billion dollars over 5 years. It just happens to be that these schools are primarily. 

 

                                                                                                                                       US Secretary of Education,                                                                                                                                                          Arnie Duncan

There are 4 Turnaround models in the federal guidelines:

  1. Turnaround Model – Replace the principal and rehire no more than 50% of the school’s staff, adopt a new governance structure, and implement a research-based vertically aligned instructional program. 
  2. Restart Model – Transfer control of or close and reopen a school under a School Management Organization (SMO) or school operator that has been selected through a rigorous review process. 
  3. School Closure – Close the school and enroll students in other, higher-achieving schools. 
  4. Transformation Model – Develop teacher/principal effectiveness (including replacing the principal), implement comprehensive instructional reform, extend learning and teacher planning time, create a community-orientation, and provide operating flexibility and sustained support

Link:  http://tinyurl.com/prel32m

 

Translated into normal  English:  

  1. Turnaround ModelFire or displace at least half of the staff and the principal.
  2. Restart Model – Create a charter or give the existing school a privately-run and publicly-funded charter school.
  3. School Closure – No need to explain. See Chicago Public Schools or DC Public Schools.  
  4. Transformation - Fire the principal and invest. Only model that doesn't fire and displace effective teachers. 

DPS most commonly chooses the Turnaround model. This is not the case nationwide. Once again, I want to reiterate the quote that "We're not in a place where anyone has done [a turnaround network] right."


What does this mean for DPS?

According to this Colorado Department of Education website, DPS has used federal Turnaround grants at least 14 times over 3 years, receiving millions in federal money. 

Link:  http://www.cde.state.co.us/fedprograms/tieredinterventiongrantresources

  1. Montbello High School (Close)
  2. North High School
  3. Noel Middle School
  4. Philips (Close)
  5. Rishel (Close)
  6. Lake
  7. Skyland (Close)
  8. Greenlee 
  9. Gilpin 
  10. Trevista 
  11. Charles M. Schenk 
  12. Smith
  13. West
  14. Bruce Randolph

 

The list above does not include schools that went through a similar process called "Redesign". These schools did not qualify for the School Improvement Grants, happened prior to SIG, or are outside of the CDE reporting. This following list may be missing additional schools, but the redesign and closed schools that I can recall outside of the SIG grants are:

  1. Remington Elementary (Closed)
  2. Smedley Elementary (Closed)
  3. Horace Mann Middle School
  4. Del Pueblo Elementary (Closed)
  5. Wyman Elementary (Closed)
  6. Gilpin
  7. Polaris (Closed)
  8. Manual High School (Twice:  resulting in many students, predominantly of color, never graduating high school)
  9. Kunsmiller Middle School
  10. Grant Middle School
  11. Oakland Elementary (Twice:  turned into SOAR Oakland charter school and then closed again)
  12. McGlone Elementary
  13. Green Valley Ranch Elementary
  14. Centennial K-8
  15. Fairmont K-8
  16. Ashley Elementary
  17. Smiley Middle School (Closed)
  18. Kepner Middle School (Coming in 2015-2016)

 

Denver Public Schools currently has two Turnaround networks of schools managed by their own Instruction Superindent, Deputy Superintendent, and support staff. The current networks are the West Denver Network (WDN) and the Denver Summit Schools Network (DSSN). They are in process of establishing a new turnaround network including Cheltenham Elementary, Columbine Elementary, Fairview Elementary, and Valverde Elementary. This network is flagged for Redesign or Turnaround if improvement is not made soon.  

 

 

DPS has already redesigned or turned around 17 schools on its own and 14 more with the support federal money to aid their programs. This makes 31 schools in Denver where students were displaced, teachers and other staff were fired. 

 

What is the result?

 

The Achievement Gap Is Growing.

Denver Public Schools consists of 77% minority students. 58% of those students are Latino, and 14% Black. As the District administration continues to fail to address the achievement gap, it continues to fail the majority of Denver students. Furthermore, these schools all predominantly serve or served students of color. Two of Denver's iconic schools that successfully served African American students, Montbello and Manual High Schools, have been tinkered with with little success. DPS eventually shut down Montbello and is trying to decide what to do with Manual. Similar Turnarounds and closures are happening at Latino schools like West High School and Kepner Middle School. Tom Boasberg has even admitted that while the achievement gap is shrinking statewide, it is getting worse in Denver, 

"While we're seeing significant gains across all demographic groups, we are not seeing our gaps close and this is very concerning," Boasberg said. "As we move forward, clearly we need to improve the effectiveness of our efforts to close the achievement gaps."

Citation:  "Latino students in Colroado Slowly closing gaps on achievement tests." Denver Post

 

​​Articles:

 

Massive Layoffs and Firings of Effective Teachers.

The vast majority of these schools implemented a process that either shuttered the school or required the staff to reapply for their jobs despite positive performance evaluations. The district is then able to displace or layoff teachers without any cause when they had been performing effectively. 

Articles

 

Fewer Teachers of Color in Denver Schools

  • It is a well-known fact that Denver Public Schools is losing more teachers of color than they are attracting. ​According to Colorado Public Radio reported Jenny Brundin in an article in February 2014, only 4% of teachers in Denver are black while 14% of the student body is black. The gap worsens with Latinos with a 17% Latino teachers and 58% Latino students. Link – "Race Matters in the Classroom:  Why are all of my teachers white?http://www.cpr.org/news/story/race-matters-classroom-why-are-all-my-teachers-white

Articles:

 

Major Funding for Politicians (Democrats for Education Reform) and Republicans Who Support this Model. 

 

2009

2011

​​2013

 

Maybe this will help explain why the NEA's body of over 8,000 education employee delegates vote in support of a request to ask US Secretary of State Arnie Duncan to resign. School boards are getting more and more funding from national corporate and special interests that are working to privatize public education and bust teacher and other public employee unions (one of the strongest checks on corporations and Republicans). 

We are now seeing this in Douglas County, Jefferson County, Big Thompson School District, and District 12 as well. It is time to get educated and get organized to preserve one of the major pillars of American prosperity. 

Another Political Reporter Leaves The Denver Post

(Promoted by Colorado Pols — this could have a direct impact on Colorado politics because Lee was covering CD-6 for the Post)

Denver Post political reporter Kurtis Lee announced via Twitter today that he'll be leaving The Post Wednesday for a job covering politics on the Los Angeles Times' new real-time news desk.

"It's been a great three years here at The Post," Lee told me via email. "I'm so grateful to have worked with so many amazingly talented reporters, editors and photographers–and to do it for a newspaper I grew up reading has been awesome. The Post will always be a must read for me."

Lee's new job is focused on online journalism, but Lee will work across platforms, he said.

Lee, who was born and raised in Colorado Springs, started at The Post in Feb 2011. His work was quickly thrust under the microscope, as he covered the state legislature, the contested 6th Congressional District race, the 212 presidential campaign, the Aurora massacre, and other political flashpoints in Colorado.

In a memo to staff, The Post's Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett praised Lee's reporting and wrote that Lee has been on the "leading edge of The Post's efforts to function as a 24/7 news organization. His use of social media, blog posts and video journalism is as powerful as the best in the business."

"I applaud the good sense of the LAT in snaring Kurtis Lee," wrote Plunkett, "and regret that I will be deprived of working with this promising young journalist going forward. But we are lucky in that we work in an industry that wishes to see its players do well. And this move should be a great opportunity for Kurtis to do just that."

Strong Economic Growth in Colorado Great News for Hickenlooper

Hickenlooper-Head

As the Denver Post reports, Colorado's economic growth is outpacing earlier forecasts:

Colorado is on track to add 68,000 net new jobs this year rather than the 61,300 the Colorado Business Economic Outlook in December predicted it would gain, according to a midyear update from the University of Colorado.

"We are seeing broad-based growth in the whole economy, not just energy," said Rich Wobbekind, the CU economist who puts together the closely watched forecast, which is in its 49th year…

The biggest unexpected employment gains, however, are coming in leisure and hospitality, which has added 13,000 jobs on a year-over-year basis in May compared with the annual gain of 7,500 the Outlook predicted in December.

"It is largely tourism-driven, on the accommodations side," Wobbekind said.

Other areas with stronger-than-expected hiring are professional and business services, health care, and local and state governments.

You don't need James Carville to explain why this is good news for Gov. John Hickenlooper. There are plenty of other issues that will be debated in advance of the November election, but from a practical political perspective (say that three times fast), there's really no way that Hickenlooper loses his bid for re-election if Colorado's economy continues to grow in the coming months. First and foremost, Hickenlooper has always tried to position himself as a leader when it comes to economic and employment growth, and he can use this issue to trump virtually every attack from Republican opponent Bob Beauprez.

Even without strong economic news, Hickenlooper has several potential paths to victory in November. The same cannot be said of Beauprez; if he is forced to try to argue that Hickenlooper should not get credit for Colorado's economic growth, he's already lost.

Thank you, Charles and David Koch, for improving Colorado’s health care coverage

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Law of Unintended Consequences:

The hundreds of millions of dollars spent on anti-Obamacare ads may have inadvertently encouraged enrollment, a Brookings Institution study released Wednesday found.

In a state-by-state look at spending on ads attacking the Affordable Care Act, Brookings found that increased ad spending per capita was tied to declining enrollment in red states but linked with increasing enrollment in blue states.

“This implies that anti-ACA ads may unintentionally increase the public awareness about the existence of a governmentally subsidized service and its benefits for the uninsured,” wrote Brookings Institution fellow Niam Yaraghi, noting that anti-Obamacare ads may have encouraged people to sign up by making them think it might be a limited-time offer.

“In the states where more anti-ACA ads are aired, residents were on average more likely to believe that Congress will repeal the ACA in the near future,” he said. “People who believe that subsidized health insurance may soon disappear could have a greater willingness to take advantage of this one time opportunity.”

Of the more than $445 million spent on ads mentioning Obamacare, negative ads outspent positive ones 15-to-1, a Kantar Media CMAG report found in May.

What do you know about that, "Americans for Prosperity"?

(more…)

Gardner un-cosponsored legislation in 2011, showing how he can un-cosponsor federal personhood bill now

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

One of the biggest election-year hypocrisies hanging out there, waiting for a civic-minded reporter to jump on, is the fact that senatorial candidate Cory Gardner remains a cosponsor of federal personhood legislation, even though he's told the world, both in interviews and even in a paid advertisement, that he's "learned more" about "personhood" and changed his mind about supporting it.

To un-cosponsor the federal personhood bill, the Life at Conception Act, Gardner must give a speech from the floor of the House of Representatives. Why hasn't he done this?

Now is the time for the aforementioned civic-minded reporter to jump in and remind Gardner that he's trotted down to the floor of House and un-cosponsored at least one bill before.

Back in 2011, Gardner, along with fellow Colorado Congressmen Coffman and Tipton, cosponsored legislation offering tax credits for natural-gas-powered vehicles.

But the oil-loving Koch brothers caught wind of the legislation, and pressured co-sponsors of the bill to withdraw their names.

As the Sunlight Foundation reported at the time:

But some companies, led by the oil refining conglomerate owned by the politically influential Koch brothers, have campaigned against the legislation, according to a report in The Hill newspaper. Their efforts have resulted in 14 members of Congress withdrawing their support for the bill.

Gardner, Coffman, and Tipton apparently felt the Koch pressure, and speaking from the floor of the House, one by one, they asked that their cosponsorship of the natural-gas bill (HR 1380) be ended. Click at the bottom of the page here, on "Show cosponsors who withdrew."

(more…)

Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional!

POLS UPDATE: The Denver Post reports:

Judge C. Scott Crabtree pulled no punches in his 49-page ruling, saying the state's voter-approved ban "bears no rational relationship to any conceivable government interest."

The ruling makes Colorado the latest in a string of 16 states that have seen their bans on same-sex marriages tossed out by state and federal judges.

The ruling came as another judge in Boulder County considered a request by Attorney General John Suthers to stop a county clerk from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. And last week, attorneys filed a federal lawsuit seeking to challenge Colorado's gay marriage ban.

—–

Today in Adams County, Judge Scott Crabtree, an Owens appointee and former DA declared Colorado's gay marriage ban unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses of the US Constitution.  Unfortunately he stayed his opinion pending appeal.

Interestingly his opinion held that the recent passage of civil unions was just another discriminatory act by Colorado against gays.  He held that the right to marry is a fundamental right as many courts dating back to 1888 have so ruled.  He ruled that the argument that prohibiting gay marriage was to protect the state's interest in pro-creating was a pretext for discrimination.  He then goes on to quote Mark Paschall and Doug Dean (to of the most notorious right wing fruitcakes in the legislature) making outrageous remarks as further support for the fact that these new arguments are a pretext, calling them a "fabrication."

He found that the states interest in pro-creation was "post hoc in response to litigation."

He also dismissed the personal claims against Hickenlooper under the Federal 1983 act for continuing to enforce the law.

Congrats to all marriage supporters.

Beauprez says 47-percent comment was a lament and “consumption tax” would be more fair

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In what appears to be his first non-spokesperson explanation in the media of his comment that "we've got almost half the population perfectly happy that somebody else is paying" income tax, Beauprez said on a Colorado Springs radio show Saturday that in his 2010 Rotary-Club speech, he was "lamenting" that more people couldn't be like Beauprez's father, who fought his way out of poverty, when he paid no income tax, and later made enough money to achieve "some degree of success and prosperity" and to pay "part of the load to carry this state and this great nation."

Beauprez went on to suggest that it would be more fair to throw out the current income tax code and replace it with a consumption tax.

"I think taxing consumption is a whole lot better idea than taxing work, or the income from work," Beauprez told KVOR host Ed Jones July 5. "And I think it is more equitable and more fair. So yeah, I think we ought to move that direction. I wrote a book, published in 2009, and I said we ought to take the entire tax code –the whole thing– light it on fire and start all over. And if we start over with that kind of a tax system, I think we’d be far better off and really stimulate this economy.

Jones, substituting for regular host Jeff Crank, did not ask Beauprez how his father's story squares with Beauprez's comment that almost half the population is "perfectly happy" not to pay tax. Judging from Beauprez's story, Beauprez's father didn't seem happy at all not to pay income tax, much less perfectly happy.

Neither did Jones ask Romney for details on how his proposed consumption tax, typically applied to the sale goods and services.

(more…)

Bob Beauprez Breeds Idiocy

“Both Ways” Bob Beauprez (right).

There was a school of thought leading into the June Primary that Democrats were better off with Tom Tancredo as the Republican nominee for Governor, mostly because Tancredo was thought to be particularly poisonous for Republicans across the ballot. While we certainly understood the logic behind that premise, we'd always believed that Bob Beauprez was just as problematic for Republicans, if not more so, because of his incredible penchant for saying ridiculously stupid things. For all of Tancredo's problems as a candidate, he at least seemed to have figured out how to keep his own feet out of his mouth lately.

Beauprez? Not so much.

As the Denver Post reports today, Beauprez's foolhardy nature seems to infect everyone around him; his campaign can't even put out a prepared statement that doesn't say something dumb:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez on Tuesday said calling a special legislative session to forge a compromise on local control over oil and gas drilling in Colorado is not in the best interests of the state.

In a statement sent in response to Denver Post questions, Beauprez called on his incumbent opponent Gov. John Hickenlooper to " reject calls for a special legislative session that would serve as little more than a tool to force ill-advised policies on the people of our state without debate, deliberation, or discussion."…

…Beauprez wrote that the issue should be resolved during the normal legislative session.

"The governor and the legislature have 180 days to deal with issues they determine to be important enough to warrant new laws. [Pols emphasis] The Colorado taxpayer should not have to finance a special session, just so a bill can be passed that would strip citizens' property rights, and create a chaotic patchwork of different regulatory environments around the state, which would remove any remaining shred of certainty — especially on the heels of six consecutive years of rule changes."

Colorado's normal legislative session is 120 days. [Pols emphasis]

As Post reporter Bruce Finley noted, Colorado's legislature is not in session for 180 days — or anywhere close to that number. The normal legislative session runs from early January to early May, but in recent years has been concluded early as legislative leaders seek to save the state a little money.

How on earth does Beauprez's campaign make such a stupid mistake? It's not like this is just Beauprez talking off the cuff and saying something ridiculous, as he is wont to do. This is a prepared statement that included a foolish error that went completely unnoticed by anyone on Beauprez's staff. This is the Republican nominee for Governor who seems clueless to something as simple as how often the legislature convenes.

Is Beauprez's own peculiar brand of idiocy just infecting everyone around him? Has he had trouble finding staff who actually live in Colorado? What's going on here?

Obama Likes LoDo, LoDo Likes Him Right Back

UPDATE #2: FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports on the President's just-concluded speech:

“We have come farther and recovered faster than almost any advanced nation on Earth,” Obama said. “We know we’ve still got a long way to go.

“More jobs have been created in the first half of this year since 1999, but many families barely earn what they earned in the nineties. Too much improvement goes to the folks at the top, and not enough of it is making a difference in the lives of regular Americans.”

As he has since his State of the Union address in January, Obama positioned himself as a president of action who’s done waiting for a do-nothing Congress.

“These days, basic common sense ideas cannot get through Congress,” he said. “They’ve said no to raising the minimum wage. They’ve said no to equal pay so women can get paid the same as men. They’ve said no to unemployment insurance for working Americans. Congress just said no to fixing our broken immigration system.

“If Congress won’t act, I will.”

—–

UPDATE: Watch President Barack Obama's Denver speech today in its entirety:

—–

obamahickpool

Photos via White House photographer Pete Souza

obamalodo

The Denver Post reports, apparently Gov. John Hickenlooper isn't afraid to be seen with Barack Obama after all! Though we haven't heard who won their game of pool:

President Barack Obama opened his Denver trip Tuesday evening by dining with five Colorado residents who wrote the White House and shared their stories of trying to make it in today's economy.

Then he strolled Lower Downtown, shaking hands and eventually playing pool with Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The conversations over pizza at the Wazee Supper Club in LoDo are meant to reinforce the main thrust of a speech Obama is expected to deliver Wednesday in Cheesman Park — that Congress, in particular Republicans, aren't doing enough to "expand opportunities for the middle class," said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, in an interview.

Despite President Obama's warm reception in Lower Downtown Denver last night, the media remains focused on the question of whether local Democrats are "steering clear of the President" due to Obama's soft approval ratings going into his second midterm election. The AP reports that Sen. Mark Udall, in a last-minute change, is remaining in Washington today in order to vote on the new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Udall was already going to miss Obama's speech this morning in Cheesman Park, but this latest announcement has led to yet another round of speculation that Udall is "afraid" of getting his picture taken with Obama.

This would seem to ignore the fact that cameras aren't allowed at the fundraiser, but don't let that get in the way of a good story.

We'll say this much: if these scheduling conflicts were intended to put distance between Obama and local Democrats, the strategy failed dismally–drawing more press speculation and Republican crowing to this event than would have existed had they simply appeared at Cheesman Park. But isn't it just possible that Udall and anybody else who can't make it really were already booked? Obama's Cheesman Park speech was only arranged last Monday according to all news reports, and it's not like the business of the U.S. Senate stops for a fundraiser. There's at least enough of a chance that the mundane explanation is right to reasonably consider the possibility.

But especially in an election year, nobody wants to read mundane explanations.