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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirOctober 23, 201716min1097
It meanders across 71 miles of metro Denver, a natural, green ribbon of towering cottonwoods running the length of a seemingly ancient canal bed. It zig-zags through multiple cities and counties, demarcating neighborhoods and helping define them. It is home to as broad an assortment of plant and animal life as you’ll find along Colorado’s […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirOctober 2, 20175min125
Clarissa Arellano-Thomas is both book-smart and street-smart about the state’s political scene. To the former point: She holds a Ph.D. in public policy. ‘Nuff said. As for the latter: She has been in the trenches for over two decades and knows just about everyone in El Paso County’s political pantheon, past and present — as […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 27, 20173min1642
The perennial face-off over fracking is of course a four-way fight: While the oil and gas industry has been duking it out with activists opposed to drilling, the state of Colorado has been going toe-to-toe with local governments over who has the power to regulate drilling in the first place. It is the latter clash […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 29, 20174min940

He’s in the middle of all the action when the legislature is in session. Yet, you might not even notice him as he pounds out press releases at his desk or confers with lawmakers on the floor of the Colorado state House. After all, his job isn’t to get noticed but to make sure others do — notably, the members of the Republican House minority.

Joel Malecka has been at it for four years now as House GOP communications director. He enjoys the job and isn’t prone to complaining, but when pressed, he’ll admit to putting in  some marathon hours.

The longest day he’s ever pulled: “The longest day is usually the budget, and I have seen the clock roll past 2 a.m. more than a few times. But … the day time moved the slowest — that was Sine Die in 2014. We had wrapped up our business and were waiting to gavel out and retreat to the end-of-session party down the street at about 2 p.m. We just had to get through tributes for the departing members. Tributes are where after 120 days of talking, members still feel compelled to speak at length about how much they love each other and are going to miss working together. If I recall there were about 17 tributes. For each one, nearly every member went down to the well and said the same thing for 10 minutes as the last person, literally for each person departing. We staffers sat through almost nine hours of tributes. All the enthusiasm to go celebrate the last day was snuffed out …”

What drew him to the job: “I am a pretty extroverted guy, and while communications wasn’t necessarily my formal background, it was central to everything I had done prior. And I really saw this job as the opportunity of a lifetime, to be able to work at the State Capitol with the elected officials.”

Relations between the two parties: “I think the seemingly endless coverage of partisan politics overshadows the reality that the legislators work together the vast majority of the time. I have found that while the two sides of the aisle may disagree on specific policy, they all want to make Colorado a great place to live, work and raise a family. I try to make that point as often as possible in conversations about politics to counteract the perception that all elected officials do is fight with each other.”

The biggest challenge in dealing with the press: “Learning how each reporter covers the legislature and their different styles of reporting. I have found that the press coverage is pretty fair and balanced in Colorado. I have made it a point to get to know the Capitol press corps and break down some of the preconceived notions any members have about working with the press.”

What he hopes to be doing 30 years from now: “…Hopefully my wife and I are near a beach with full scuba tanks, some clear blue water and cocktails waiting back home.”


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 28, 201711min1370

Legislative efforts to reform the state’s laws on construction liability — “construction defects” was the buzz phrase — became one of the dominant themes of the 2017 session at the State Capitol. The seemingly obscure issue also became the focus of intense media coverage. After all, the end game mattered a lot to ordinary Coloradans: to build more homes that first-time buyers and others of modest means actually could afford in the state’s superheated housing market.

What didn’t get a lot of coverage was one of the key players who helped forge the resulting legislation: the point man for the state’s homebuilding industry. That would be Scott Smith, the subject of today’s Q&A. He has been the CEO of the Colorado Association of Homebuilders for the past three years and is a veteran homebuilder himself with over 30 years of experience managing master-planned community development in Colorado Springs. He was the 1995 president of the state association and has served on its Governmental Affairs Committee for several years. So, he knows his way around the legislative world. A Colorado native and a certified public accountant by training, Smith also served as a director of the National Association of Home Builders.

Colorado Politics: Prior to your tenure, there were some challenges at the CAHB, causing some to form another group. What key changes and decisions helped stabilize the association and keep it as the leading voice for the state’s homebuilders?

Scott Smith: The stabilization of CAHB came primarily from solid leadership from the association’s officers.  Strong engagement and support from all ten of the local association executive officers (particularly Colorado Springs and Metro Denver), a very supportive and active board of directors and the engagement of two prominent lobbyists were all key.  We also had strong support from the individual boards and board members of the local associations from across the state.

CP: Has the organization maintained its base and mission, and how does it look moving forward?

SS: Our mission is taking the lead as the voice of the nearly 2,000-member strong Colorado Association of Home Builders and the housing industry at the state capitol.  The Association’s structure is rooted in representation from all ten local associations, including the Metro Denver, Colorado Springs, Northern Colorado and Pueblo HBAs on the Front Range; and the Grand Junction, Durango, Summit County, Grand County, Glenwood Springs and Cortez chapters on the Western Slope. CAHB has not shirked its responsibilities and has actively engaged in legislative policy review and participation through the activities of its Governmental Affairs Committee and the association’s influential lobbying team.  There is no shortage of issues ahead, and the Association is positioned and equipped to tackle them.  The future CEO will have a solid, functional and supported organization to lead.

CP: We’ve heard you are taking on a new challenge in the private sector and will be leaving CAHB’s executive staff and joining the board. What’s ahead for you?

SS: I will be joining ProTerra Properties LLC, a real estate development, investment and management company based in Monument, with interests across the Front Range.  I have been very engaged in the housing industry for the better part of my career in the development of master planned communities in Colorado Springs, but also in leadership at the Colorado Springs HBA, CAHB and at the national level with NAHB.  I intend to remain engaged as a CAHB board member and a member of the Governmental Affairs Committee into the future, continuing to lend my knowledge and expertise on key issues and policy development.

CP: CAHB was a major part of the coalition working on construction-defects legislation. What are your thoughts about the process, recent legislation and what it all means for creating more entry-level housing in Colorado?

SS: CAHB has been a member of the Homeownership Opportunity Alliance for the past few years, working cooperatively with other associations and groups, legislative leadership and legislators, and local governments to identify solutions to this vexing problem.  The result of past legislation, the evolving litigation environment and investment decision-making all led to a point that condo developers and investors simply avoided developing new projects due to the risk factors.  Positive steps occurred in 2017 with the passage of House Bill 1279 and more significantly the Colorado Supreme Court decision on the Vallagio case.  Hopefully, these two developments will change risk calculations enough to encourage condo development, particularly at the workforce housing level of the overall housing spectrum.  I remain hopeful that these efforts will be successful.

CP: What do you see as the biggest policy or political challenge ahead for the state’s homebuilding industry?

SS: In short, maintaining an environment where the industry can meet the expanding housing demand that is a result of very solid economic growth.  The housing industry plays a key role in the economy by increasing the supply of housing to meet this demand.  There is not a single challenge ahead, but an array of significant challenges, not the least is complete misunderstanding of homebuilding and the role it plays in the economy.  Housing costs have skyrocketed in the past few years as a result of a number of factors including: an ever-expanding set of fees and taxes; regulatory compliance that adds up to 25% or more of the end home cost; increased litigation risks; labor shortages and costs; land availability and costs; building code improvements and the associated costs; and construction-finance challenges.  There are also several issues on the national stage that have not helped, including the recent lumber tariffs that have added more than $3,500 in added costs to an average new home.  The typical legislative response is to simply add more costs, fees and rules, and regulations to the process—then decry the affordable-housing problem.  The Association will participate in the process to find solutions to these problems and to educate decision-makers on the impacts.

CP: Just as Colorado keeps growing, efforts to halt the growth through legislation and the ballot box never seem to be far behind. Most recently, a longtime growth-control advocate filed a statewide ballot proposal calling for a growth cap, and similar measures are afoot in Lakewood. How has the homebuilding industry’s strategy evolved in responding to such challenges? What message will you convey to the public to counter calls for growth control?

SS: Price controls, rationing and limitations are government responses to exasperating problems, ignoring the power and creativity of the private sector.  I can’t think of an instance in which artificial limitations have worked or made things better; they are rife with unintended consequences.  I mostly think about shortages, cost increases and delays that will lead to bigger problems like economic stagnation, dislocation, homelessness and other housing maladies.  I understand the frustration with increased traffic, but we are adding per capita miles traveled at a faster pace than population growth.  Colorado has simply not kept pace with transportation needs for a very long time, and the problem is now acute.  Population growth is also a hot topic, but don’t forget that nearly 70,000 babies were born in Colorado last year.  Back in 2000, 64,000 kids were born in Colorado and are now high school seniors.  Approval of limits or moratoriums is telling our own kids that you are not welcome here, move away to earn your living unless you have a very lucrative career. Is that what we want?

CP: You were a prominent homebuilder and land developer yourself for many years in the Pikes Peak region. What would your advice be to someone starting out in the industry today?

SS: Housing is a very important aspect of both the economy and the unique American culture and fabric.  In and around “home” is where the important events in our lives occur.  Solving the challenges around creating homes for people and families on all points along the housing spectrum has become much more complex.  Maintaining quality, value and a sense of place are all very important aspects, but delivering a new home to people no matter what walks of life they are in is a very worthy and satisfying endeavor.


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJuly 20, 20173min106
Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman hates traffic. At least that’s what she told an audience at the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council meeting in Denver on Wednesday. Coffman, who is considering a run for governor, was feeling “disheveled” after spending nearly an hour trying to get into the downtown Denver hotel where the meeting was […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 20, 20173min78
Generation Latino is taking a message to Colorado Springs and Pueblo: The Latino community has a lot at stake in environmental conservation. Advocates and leaders will gather petition signatures defending public lands in the Springs Thursday morning and meet with the staff of Sen. Cory Gardner at his office in Pueblo Thursday afternoon. The event […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 19, 20176min1090

As it became clear Republicans would not be able to replace Obamacare Tuesday, Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet offered another suggestion: work together to fix healthcare. Sen. Cory Gardner said to push ahead, but he didn’t say to where or how.

“It’s past time for a bipartisan approach that lowers costs and improves outcomes,” Bennett said. “Cutting taxes for special interests while slashing funds for Medicaid does literally nothing but make our challenges in healthcare worse. We should turn our attention to competition, transparency, and affordability so that we can create a system that serves all Coloradans.”

With Republicans clinging to just a two-seat majority in the Senate, four members bolted from the plan supported by President Trump, which The Hill newspaper called a “stunning collapse.”

GOP leaders are weighing whether to seek a simple repeal, undoing Obamacare and returning to the system it replaced.

“Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Monday evening.

Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas said they couldn’t support it.

Brandon Rittiman at 9News laid out concisely Gardner’s vague positions on how he would vote. Though he participated in drafting the failed bill, Gardner never went on record saying he would vote for it, though he was never viewed as a vote on the bubble. He also hasn’t said whether he would support a repeal without a replacement.

“We will continue our work to get our job done to make sure the status quo no longer stands, and we instead provide relief to the American people,” he told the press at the Capitol, surrounded by fellow Republican Senate members, including McConnell.

Gardner has been the target of impassioned protests by advocacy groups and liberal political operatives hoping to use the healthcare vote against him when he runs for re-election in 2020.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Aurora, voted against the House version of the Republican health-care overhaul over concerns about protections for people with pre-existing conditions. He sounded more like Bennet than Gardner Tuesday evening.

“Real people are suffering because the Affordable Care Act is not working. Republicans promised to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Coffman said in a statement. “There are legitimate differences of opinion in our Conference about how we accomplish that, but we need to bridge them and get this job done. I have presented an alternate, common-sense path forward, I believe would have bipartisan support and help us deliver better care at lower costs for all Americans”

Adela Flores-Brennan, executive director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and coalition manager for the Protect Our Care Colorado Coalition, said Coloradans can’t afford a sigh of relief as long as McConnell is still talking about repealing the Affordable Care Act next week, without a replacement.  

“This plan is a clear abdication of responsibility that will lead to 32 million Americans losing coverage and chaos in our health care system,” she said. “Whether it is a repeal bill or some other effort, we will continue this fight until there is no longer a threat to the health care of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Coloradans.”

Jimmy Sengenberger, the president and CEO of the conservative Millennial Policy Center in Denver, called out Republicans for a “failure of leadership.”

The think tank that focuses on issues affecting younger Americans released a policy paper on the cost of healthcare in March.

“Unfortunately, it is now officially an Obamacare world, and we all just live in it,” Sengenberger said in an e-mailed statement. “Policymakers may instead need to look to #PiecemealRepeal, that is, repealing and replacing Obamacare in a piecemeal fashion that blunts the blow of the death spiral on Americans by chipping away at and replacing many of the law’s crushing provisions.”


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 19, 20173min78
The American Legislative Exchange Council kicks off its three-day annual gathering in Denver Wednesday to tilt state legislators from across the country toward the industry-friendly principles of free markets and limited government. Moreover, the business-supported nonprofit best known by its acronym, ALEC, helps them draft pro-business legislation to fight a ground war of sorts in […]

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Roger HudsonRoger HudsonJuly 19, 20174min1060
Roger Hudson
Roger Hudson

Tis the season, right?

Political campaigns this week are releasing — sometimes trumpeting — their fundraising numbers for the last quarter. Some candidates are waiting to the very last moment to expose the sensitive internal financial workings of their campaign. Standing naked, candidates show all to their opponents, donors and of course the critics.

Painful? Sometimes. Humbling? Almost always.

Which candidate raised the most money? How much cash does so and so have on hand? Were the donations from individuals? PAC money? How big a check did the candidate throw into his or her own campaign?

Outside of the purely legal aspect of keeping campaigns honest and above-board, this political voyeurism of finance reporting is really only interesting to a tiny political universe. I’ve never heard a constituent say they were voting for a candidate because that candidate out-raised the opponent. Let’s face it, political consultants may care but the only checkbook the average Colorado voter cares about is their own.

So why is so much attention paid to a financial horse race that no voter is actually watching or even cares about? Pretty good question, aye?

Campaign donations matter only as a means to an end. That’s it. Nothing additional. A candidate’s ideas matter much more than donations, don’t they? Yes, a candidate will need money to carry their message to Colorado voters, especially in a state-wide race. They’ll need gas money to get them to the Western Slope. But cash doesn’t equal ideas. Donations — no matter how large — don’t guarantee election wins.

Take for instance the last presidential race. The Trump campaign raised about $340 million in the course of the primary and general election. That included a hefty $66 million check the billionaire wrote to himself. Meanwhile, the well-oiled Clinton political machine shook the left-leaning trees to rake in more than $580 million.

We all know how that turned out and who’s set up shop in the Oval Office for the next three years or so. If out-raising her opponent by almost a quarter of a billion dollars couldn’t save Hillary Clinton from becoming a footnote, can’t we stop drooling over large checks written by the donor class?

So, when you read quotes this week from campaigns celebrating their fundraising efforts or degrading that of their opponents, ask yourself: How can politicians in one breath denounce the need for large pots of political cash and in the next brag about the “winning” amount they raised?

No wonder voters are suspicious and frustrated with politics and politicians.