Ernest LuningErnest LuningNovember 3, 20179min13910

Cole Wist, Colorado's assistant House Republican leader, says he’s “thinking seriously” about running for state attorney general in next year's election if GOP incumbent Cynthia Coffman decides to run for governor, and he expects to announce his plans within weeks, he told Colorado Politics. Coffman said months ago she was weighing a bid for governor rather than run for a second term but has yet to declare her intentions.


Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 16, 20173min8350

Colorado mayors will help advance a nationwide mission to put a high-quality park within a 10-minute walk of every American.

The Trust for Public Land, National Recreation and Park Association and Urban Land Institute will launch the nationwide campaign in 2018.

The JPB Foundation has donated almost $3.5 million for project.

The initiative includes working with some cities on ways to measure policies and strategies to locate a park with a half-mile of everyone, which could prove a costly challenge.

The Trust for Public Land said research indicates more than 100 million Americans don’t have access to parks in that proximity now.

“Reaching 100 percent served in cities nationwide will require major advances in park finance and construction; zoning changes to encourage park development; embedding this goal into city parks master plans; the expansion of ‘joint use’ agreements that open school playgrounds, tracks, and gyms for public use after hours and on weekends; and other innovations,” the partnership said in a statement.

It’s got the endorsement of 134 mayors, including seven from Colorado. In addition to Hancock the campaign is endorsed by Steve Hogan of Aurora, John Suthers of Colorado Springs, Wade Troxell of Fort Collins, Marjorie Sloan of Golden, Heidi Williams of Thornton and Herb Atchison of Westminster.

“In Denver, we know great cities need great parks,” Hancock said in a statement. “It’s never been more important to protect, preserve and grow our parks and recreational opportunities, especially as our city grows. I’m proud to join this campaign with mayors across the country.”

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper cites the 10-minute goal among his highest priorities for the state before he leaves office in January 2019.

His Colorado the Beautiful program features an interactive database that maps more than 39,000 miles of trails across the state, and put that information online.

Hickenlooper said Colorado can meet the 10-minute goal within a generation.


Marianne GoodlandSeptember 14, 20175min236
Despite heated political rhetoric between Washington, D.C. and the United States’ neighbors, especially to the south, Denver this week is the center of a week-long event that its sponsors hope will bridge some of that growing divide. This week marks the fourth Biennial of the Americas, started by Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2010 while he […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 29, 20175min73
Denver made its practice on immigration a policy backed by a city ordinance Monday night. The City Council unanimously passed the Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act, sending the clearest message yet to the Trump administration that Denver won’t assist in a federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants. The U.S. Constitution reserves immigration enforcement to federal authorities, […]

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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyAugust 13, 20178min1390

As the 22-year-old Denver International Airport outgrows its dated design, it must undergo a modernization of sorts, principally to address security vulnerabilities like long lines at security checkpoints.

That’s airport officials’ contention in touting a stout, complex $1.8 billion, 34-year public-private partnership with a consortium of companies led by Spanish transportation infrastructure behemoth Ferrovial.

The Great Hall Project will help one of Colorado’s major transportation hubs adapt to the evolving nature of air travel, airport executives say.

“You do not use terminals today like you did in 1995,” DIA CEO Kim Day said during a Denver committee meeting last month.

It would chiefly address security issues at screening points through $650 million in renovations. The proposed four-year overhaul would move security screening from level 5 to the sixth floor alongside ticketing; resolve the awkward flow of passenger traffic; triple the space for new concessions on level 5; and add new technology improving efficiency at security checkpoints and check-in areas among other additions, airport executives say.

And with DIA passenger traffic swelling to 58.3 million last year and the airport on pace to set a new passenger record by year’s end, the renovations would address perpetual growth at the airport, boosting capacity in the Jeppesen terminal to 80 million passengers per year.

“We are exceeding the design capacity of the terminal and we will not be able to accommodate the growth that our airlines are projecting,” Day said of not moving forward with the renovations.

Much of the Denver City Council appears poised to OK the partnership, and local construction leaders are giddy over the potential for new work in the city, but the 15,000-page pact has drawn the critical eye of airlines, labor unions, community members and City Council members including Deborah Ortega and Rafael Espinoza.

Both have said they’re uneasy about the lose of oversight detailed in the contract regarding concessions, with the consortium taking over management control of new concessions for three decades under the agreement, and wary of what they characterize as inadequate time to weigh the agreement before a vote. Ortega and Espinoza co-authored a letter requesting a vote postponement of 120 days to afford more time to study the pact.

But the clock is ticking on the City Council. Though the city would retain all the design and other work done to this point, it would be on the hook for a $9 million penalty paid to the partners if the agreement isn’t approved by Sept. 1.

Nonetheless, the City Council could vote on the deal as early as Aug. 14.

“If DIA wants my vote (on Aug. 14), I’ll need more time,” Espinoza told Colorado Politics. “DIA likely feels comfortable it has the requisite number of votes. But I’m making it clear. I am not comfortable moving forward. I need more time with the contract.”

The numbers

Under the agreement, DIA will be on the hook for as much as $1.8 billion. DIA CFO Gisela Shanahan said the airport will contribute $480 million toward the renovations via progress payments over the four years of construction, and allocate an additional $120 million in contingency funds.

Over the remaining 30 years of the agreement, DIA could pay up to $1.2 billion in reimbursement payments to the Ferrovial partners for concessions operations and maintenance costs and financing costs.

Meanwhile, the consortium partners — Ferrovial, Saunders Concessions and MJE/Loop Capital — will invest $378 million over the life of the deal through cash, debt and other means. The partners do expect a return on their investment of 10.8 percent.

Ferrovial will design and construct the renovations and assume the risk for any cost overruns or delays on the project. While Ferrovial will operate new concessions, Denver will split revenues taking 80 percent to 20 percent and retain control of concessions on DIA’s three concourses.

Officials say the airport could go it alone in financing the project for a lower price tag, but the partnership shields DIA from some of the risks associated with the project.

‘Paying a premium’

While he acknowledges the built-in protections in the public-private partnership, Espinoza said DIA is paying a premium for those benefits. He’d rather take the work already done, have the airport go it alone and finance the project at a lower cost. Considering the length of the agreement and the Ferrovial consortium taking management control of new concessions, he said it appears the deal is designed to circumvent the Council.

Other City Council members like Christopher Herndon have expressed support for the agreement, but Espinoza said he needs more time to see what other Council members see in the pact.

“This is a lot for me to digest in a very limited amount of time,” he said during a July 26 committee meeting on the project.

Councilwoman Deborah Ortega has also been outspoken on the project arguing she isn’t comfortable with the City Council’s loss of oversight for concession contracts. In a letter advocating for an 120-extension, she said there are unanswered questions.

“Mayor Hancock and DIA should pursue a 120-day extension to provide Council time to fully review a contract it took three years to develop,” Ortega and Espinoza wrote. “It would also provide time for the DIA team to work with our partner airlines that will incur a 28 percent increase in fees to provide concession space in the main hall.”

Local labor union leaders have expressed anxiety over protections for airport workers and airlines like United, Frontier and Southwest say they back renovating the airport, but are concerned about the operational and financial feasibility of the project.

United Airlines President Scott Kirby said level 6 is already crowded and the renovations would leave little room for travelers. And estimates place DIA wait times on an average day at 82 minutes Kirby said.

“That’s the root of our concern,” he said. “If you’re going to do something like that, people won’t come to Denver. We are really concerned that we harm the airport and the local economy by doing this.”

If approved, DIA construction could start next summer in “discrete phases” as to avoid disrupting travel through the Mile High City.


Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 9, 20173min1551

John Brennan, the former CIA director under President Obama, will talk about security against extremism since 9/11 at a remembrance event in Denver on Sept. 7.

Tickets are on sale for $25 each.

The event, called Colorado Remembers 9/11: Commemoration & Critical Forum on Extremism Crisis, is at 7 p.m. in the Gates Concert Hall at the University of Denver’s Newman Center.

Brennan will be joined by Bret Stephens, who won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his Global View column in the Wall Street Journal in 2013. He became an op-ed columnist for The New York Times in April to focus on foreign policy and domestic politics.

In 2015 Brennan drew fire from conservatives for defending President Obama’s decision not to use the word “Islamic” to describe ISIS, the acronym that means “Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria,” and other extremists.

“I do think it does injustice to the tenets of religion when we attach a religious moniker to them,” Brennan said during a question-and-answer session at the Center for Foreign Relations in New York City, saying the better word was “psychopathic.”

According to Time magazine’s report on the event:

Brennan said using “Islamic” or “Muslim” to describe ISIS militants gives them “the type of Islamic legitimacy that they are so desperately seeking, but which they don’t deserve at all.”

The Sept. 7 event is co-hosted by Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. It is sponsored by The Denver Post, The CELL (an acronym for the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab in Denver) and the University of Denver.


Ernest LuningErnest LuningAugust 1, 20173min2080

The campaign organization that works to elect Democrats to the Colorado Senate has named political veteran Michael Whitehorn as its executive director, it announced Monday. Whitehorn, who was most recently U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette’s campaign manager and senior counsel to the Denver Democrat’s congressional office, takes over from Andrew Short, who helmed the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund in the last cycle.


Joey BunchJoey BunchJune 27, 20173min650
Michael Hancock Politico
(Via Politico Magazine)

Just because Michael Hancock used to dress up like a horse in a helmet, does that make him interesting? Politico Magazine thinks so, citing the Denver mayor’s time as Huddles, the Broncos mascot.

The Mile High City’s biggest cheerleader today was profiled as a “cool-headed change agent” among America’s 11 most interesting mayors in a Sunday piece on the D.C.-based political news site.

“It’s easy to be emotional … and to do things because it looks good politically,” Hancock told Denver-based writer Caleb Hannan. “But if you’re not doing things that are going to protect and help your residents, then what’s the point?”

The other mayors profiled in by Politico were Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Hillary Schieve of Reno, Kevin Faulconer of San Diego, Greg Fischer of Louisville, Marty Walsh of Boston, Jennifer Roberts of Charlotte, Tomás Regalado of Miami, Jackie Biskupski of Salt Lake City, Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh and Dan Gilbert (the unofficial mayor) of Detroit.

What was Huddles Hancock up against? Consider the profile written by Blake Hounshell:

When a Nashville Predators fan was arrested for throwing a dead catfish on the ice during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals in May, a home game for the Penguins, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto responded with a barrage of fish puns. “This has turned into a whale of a story,” he wrote in a news release. “We shouldn’t be baited into interfering with this fish tale, but if the charges eventually make their way to a judge I hope the predatory catfish hurler who got the hook last night is simply sentenced to community service, perhaps cleaning fish at Wholey’s.”

Hancock has been Denver’s mayor since John Hickenlooper moved on to the governor’s office in 2011. He has twin sister and they’re the youngest of 10 children. That’s pretty interesting, too.

For the record, Hancock did Huddles duty for the Broncos when he was a senior at Manual High School in 1986.