Humility, accountability make lawmakers betters

Humility and accountability are two indispensable qualities that separate thoughtful, respected lawmakers from those prone to outrun their headlights in pursuit of the spotlight.

Humility boils down to knowing what you don’t know.  Most everyone who runs for office does so with good intentions and motivated by ideas to make their community, state or country better.

A lawmaker with humility accepts that, beyond one’s own life experience, he or she has a limited knowledge of how the rest of the world works.  For example, until I heard a restaurant owner explain it, I did not realize that operating at 25% or 50% capacity could actually be worse for their cash flow than remaining closed.

Equally crucial is accountability – not just to voters every few years – but to trusted people whom you consult for advice and who know they can speak candidly even when they tell you something you don’t want to hear.  One of my most valued advisors was my predecessor, Sen. Jim Rizzuto, a Democrat respected by both parties. (more…)

Politicians’ dismal record should nix public ‘option’

It’s not hard to understand why people are frustrated with health care.

Electricians, plumbers and mechanics can send us a simple bill with a price for their work, but doctors and hospitals send us bills with sticker-shock prices that they know will be marked down later.

Our health insurance isn’t really “insurance” but rather a system of prepaid financing.  We have few choices except how much we’re willing to pay out-of-pocket.

Few of us still have the same insurance or doctor as ten years ago when President Obama assured us, “If you like (them), you can keep (them).”

Navigating health care customer service is rivaled only by the futility of trying to talk to a real person at Comcast or Century Link. (more…)

How I came to respect centrists

Sticks in the mud.  Overly cautious.  Obstacles to progress.

That’s how I’ve tended to view political moderates – especially those in my own party.  As a 30-something state legislator (1999-2005) deeply committed to individual liberty, limited government and personal responsibility, I often grew frustrated with moderate Republicans who always seemed to move too slowly toward those goals.

I remember telling Republican activists: “The most significant legislation often passes by the narrowest margin” and “nobody is motivated by moderation.”

Today, as progressive Democrats – and some Republicans – say many of those same things to drive moderates to the sideline, my exasperation with “centrist” lawmakers has evolved into grudging admiration – at least for those willing to stand strong for their beliefs.  When emboldened, centrists in both parties serve an important function that benefits the vast majority of citizens who aren’t died-in-the-wool Republicans or Democrats: they slow the pace of change. (more…)

Remembering Rush Limbaugh

In memory of Rush Limbaugh, I wanted to share a few memories.  In May 1993, a few “dittoheads” from my church headed to Fort Collins for Dan’s Bake Sale, an impromptu gathering of Rush Limbaugh fans who converged on Fort Collins to help Dan Kay raise $29.95 to buy a subscription to Rush’s newsletter.

We didn’t know what we were in for until we reached northbound I-25 in Denver for what should have been a 45-minute drive to Old Town Square.  We realized something was different about this day when the drive slowed to more than two hours because the freeway was flooded with fans of Rush from across the country.

The Coloradoan newspaper estimated attendance at 20,000 – about the number who attended CSU football games at old Hughes Stadium.  Believe me, Rams traffic never backed up I-25 like we experienced on this day.  Attendance was surely several times greater.

Like the Tea Party Rally in Washington 30 years later, conservatives gathered, conversed and celebrated, picked up their trash, and generally “practiced what we preached.”  Those were literally the good ol’ days! (more…)

Coloradans should demand accountability from judges

Originally published in The Denver Post:

Colorado’s courts have long lacked the transparency demanded of other branches of government.  Deadlines require the state legislature to act on bills in a timely manner and allow citizens to easily monitor their progress.

But the court system operates behind a veil.  Lawyers can access certain information as a case moves toward trial, but once a case is heard by a judge – especially a civil, or non-criminal, case – the parties involved have no way to know when to expect a verdict.  The public is completely in the dark.

Media watchdogs who would decry lack of accountability by legislators, city councilors or county commissioners seem to accept without question that courts issue opinions whenever they get around to it.  News reports about judges failing to produce timely decisions simply do not exist.

A particularly egregious case recently came to a head in Denver District Court where Judge Ross Buchanan issued a ruling nearly three years after trial.  Worse still, Buchanan’s ruling smacks of vindictiveness against a defendant who had the temerity to complain about this unconscionable delay. (more…)

Lawmakers should focus on doing their jobs, not becoming social media celebrities

Even politicians with the largest social media following don’t run campaign ads touting their tweets and posts as a qualification for holding office.  And for good reason.

Last July, Pew Research found that 55% of all social media users were “worn out” by political posts and discussions.  These numbers grew markedly worse over the past four years, but applied to both parties: 63% of Republicans, 49% of Democrats.  Only 15% actually liked seeing a proliferation of political posts.

Mind you, this was a survey of social media users who, by definition, choose to be more politically engaged than the average person.  Yet, even most of these “political junkies” were weary of social media skirmishes.

Some politicians in both parties seem more pre-occupied with building their social media profile than doing the job for which they were elected.  Still others can’t resist using their electoral “fame” as an occasional platform for snarking at the opposition.

Sooner or later, it comes back to bite them. (more…)

Both parties need more level heads, fewer bomb-throwers

Five Americans lost their lives in the riot at the U.S. Capitol.  What makes that tragedy even worse is that it was so unnecessary.  We didn’t arrive at this volatile moment, when loud voices on both sides show contempt for each other, because of the failings of a single political party.

We are here because members of both parties, aided by their respective media cheerleaders and other attack dogs, have rewarded rhetorical bomb-throwers and cultivated distrust at the expense of what we once called “good government.”  Neither party should be proud of its own poor judgment (to be polite) during the past four years.  The problem is that too many “leaders” believe the ends justify the means.

The January 6 tragedy – like the 2017 Congressional baseball shooting – is a reminder that this careless rhetoric, always escalating the stakes, isn’t merely a game.

Consider: (more…)

Coloradans can be proud of Cory Gardner’s accomplishments

By Mark Hillman and Greg Brophy

            As Cory Gardners term in the U.S. Senate draws to a close, its remarkable to note the record of achievement by the dynamic native of Yuma.  With election season behind us, perhaps Coloradans can step away from partisan rancor and appreciate that Sen. Gardner was both a principled Republican and a constructive problem-solver.

            Serving under two presidents – a Democrat and a Republican – Sen. Gardner successfully addressed issues important to Colorado and our nation.

            Piloting the Great American Outdoors Act which Associated Press called the most significant conservation legislation in nearly half a century,” he worked with the late-Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) to secure permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, providing nearly $2 billion a year to address a backlog of maintenance at national parks.

(more…)

Social media is tearing us apart, and it’s our own fault

We live in a truly strange and unsettling time in America.  Never before have I seen ordinary, hard-working Americans so on edge, so angry, so spoiling for a fight — about anything or with anyone, even people they recently considered personal friends.

A couple years ago, I asked Charles Murray, author of Coming Apart, if he could think of anything that would unify Americans other than a direct attack on our soil, the Olympic games, or some form of Divine intervention.  He could not; neither could I.  Soon, olympic athletes became a source of political division, too.

In the past, Americans usually were usually able to agree to disagree on most matters.  Today, every disagreement becomes a line in the sand – a reason to boycott, terminate or excommunicate.  Seeking common ground, even where readily available (e.g., defending freedom of speech), is viewed as weakness.  Rather than work through a problem, we immediately choose up sides and declare our rightness or wokeness, while decrying others’ inability to grasp the truth as we know it.

Before, if you had something snarky to say about someone, you might mention it to your spouse or a couple friends.  Having aired your grievance, the flames of anger died down. (more…)

Partisan doubletalk aside, Senate should confirm Barrett

In any other context, it would be fairly unusual to have such an intense political debate about the appointment of such an obviously-qualified candidate for the Supreme Court as Judge Amy Coney Barrett.  But this is 2020 and everything is unusual.

Judge Barrett, a mother of seven, demonstrated exceptional poise and knowledge through three days of grueling Senate committee hearings.  Her exemplary performance under scrutiny, her career as a scholar of the Constitution, and her undeniable brilliance mark her as well-qualified for the court and a role model for young women. (more…)