Jacob’s Golden Update: Election Edition 2016

Hi everyone –

Every year around election time I’ll do an email newsletter issue and blog post that are focused on the upcoming races and ballot measures. This is that.

A quick thought before I dive in: the vitriol and the violence of this election season has been terribly disheartening. For instance, just days ago someone firebombed a Republican campaign office in North Carolina. This stuff is insane.

Fortunately, we all live in Golden, and here in Golden there has long been a culture of neighbors-first-politics-second, earnest dialogue, and keeping our disagreements respectful. Down below I offer my recommendations on some of the candidates races and ballot measures, but what I care much more about is that here in Golden we continue to trust that everyone here truly does care about our community, even when we disagree about how best to protect our quality of life and small town character, and that we continue respecting and honoring our diversity of views even when they don’t align with our own.

So … please vote, and let’s all please keep being neighbors first.


Ballot Measures

Ballot Issues 3A and 3B: YES
There is no question to my mind that we need a permanent fix for our system of funding public schools in Colorado. Until we can figure out a permanent solution, though, I absolutely support 3A and 3B. The quality of our public schools is a critical factor in our quality of life here in Jeffco, in our property values, in the strength of our communities across the county, and in giving all of our kids a great education and the opportunities the follow. Ballot Issues 3A and 3B would result in a substantial funding boost for things like critical school repairs and building improvements, school counselors, improved hands-on learning opportunities, school security, Outdoor Lab, and expanded music, art, STEM, and vocational programming. I fully support paying a very small additional amount in property tax every year to benefit Jeffco schools and the kids they educate.

Amendment 70 (“State Minimum Wage”): YES
Amendment 70 would raise the minimum wage to a modest $12/hour over three years. I know that one concern I’ve heard is that doing this might actually reduce the number of jobs available. The good news is that most of the research seems to show that this doesn’t actually happen. As I understand it, most minimum wage jobs are in fast food, home care, retail, and other roles that can’t be exported somewhere else. And while it does sometimes mean the cost of goods goes up a little bit, it is more than offset by the increased income among the lowest wage-earners. They actually end up with substantially more income that they can spend on food, gas, clothes, school supplies, and everything else, which then drives job growth, which then benefits everyone in the economy. It also helps people at the low end of the economic spectrum transition away from safety net programs. To my mind, if you work full-time you shouldn’t have to live in poverty. But minimum wage in Colorado – $8.31 – works out to about $330/week with a full-time job before taxes. That’s a poverty wage. I doubt that $12/hour is enough to lift all minimum wage earners out of poverty, but it’s at least closer to a living wage.

Amendment 71 (“Requirements for Constitutional Amendments”): NO
I don’t think there’s any question that we could update and improve the process for amending the Colorado Constitution, but Amendment 71 isn’t the answer. I’m not sure if I’ve ever aligned with the Independence Institute on a ballot measure before, but this time I think they are spot on: “Amendment 71 is intended to keep you and me from petitioning the government by making the initiative process impossible for grassroots groups and activists.” The Independence Institute is concerned that if Amendment 71 passes we might never be able to strengthen TABOR, and I’m concerned about exactly the opposite – that we might never be able to fix TABOR. But the point is the same: as a practical matter, Amendment 71 would ensure that only large corporations and super-wealthy individuals have a chance to pass ballot initiatives. And because of its signature requirements, it would enable voters in a single State Senate district to prevent a proposed initiative from even getting on the ballot. This is as frustrating to conservatives (voters in left-leaning Boulder could prevent a conservative ballot measure from even getting a vote) as it is to liberals (voters in right-leaning Mesa County could prevent a liberal ballot measure from getting a vote). The ability to put initiatives on the ballot should be available to everyone, not just the uber-wealthy. (Incidentally, there are substantial coalitions on both the right and left opposed to Amendment 71. Lots of folks across the political spectrum recognize just how severely this would cut off access to the ballot initiative process.)

Amendment 72 (“Increase Cigarette and Tobacco Taxes”): YES
I support this partly because higher prices for tobacco products means lower rates of tobacco use, especially among children and young adults. Tobacco companies win big when they get kids addicted to cigarettes or other products, and I strongly support making it harder for tobacco companies to do that. In addition, the revenue raised through this measure goes right back into improving health care across Colorado, including health benefits for veterans, making it easier for health care professionals to work in rural Colorado or in other underserved areas of the state, improving mental health and substance abuse services for kids, and disease prevention and treatment.

Ballot Question 21 (Municipal Broadband): YES
I don’t know if it would make sense for the City of Golden to offer high-speed internet or other telecommunications services. I do know that virtually everyone hates Comcast (the crappy bandwidth, the inconsistent customer service, the high cost), and as long as Comcast has such enormous power over internet services in Golden we are stuck with whatever they decide to offer us. Passing Ballot Question 21 doesn’t commit Golden to doing anything, but it at least gives us the option. And at a minimum, passing Ballot Question 21 will force Comcast to take Golden’s concerns and interests more seriously, and if Comcast doesn’t step up its game the City will have the option of more seriously exploring other options.

Ballot Issue 4B (extending the Denver Scientific and Cultural Facilities District): YES
The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District tax is one of the smartest inexpensive long-term investments we make. For 1/10 of a cent of sales tax, the SCFD funds music, art, history museums, and a bunch of other scientific and cultural facilities all over the Denver Metro region, including multiple organizations in Golden. It’s part of what makes the Denver region such a remarkable place to live.



United States Senate: Michael Bennet
Like many people, I’m generally skeptical about members of Congress. The place turns even the most well-intentioned people into reelection-focused fundraising-obsessed political machines who care more about triangulating than about their own beliefs or the views of their constituents. Michael is different. He is as grounded and down-to-earth as they come (despite his high-profile background). He’s extremely intelligent. And he is genuinely pragmatic and approachable. On multiple occasions I’ve had the opportunity to talk through an issue with him, or make my case for a particular position, and he is remarkably open to those conversations in a way that’s truly rare among politicians (Ed Perlmutter is another member of Congress I would put in this same category). I for sure don’t agree with him on everything. He represents our entire – politically diverse – state, and he sometimes lands in places I don’t share. But he brings an integrity and thoughtfulness to the role that is incredibly rare among politicians.

7th Congressional District: Ed Perlmutter
It’s hard to imagine someone better suited to representing the 7th Congressional District than Ed Perlmutter. He enjoys enormous support here because of how well he understands the communities in the district (including Golden), how hard he works, and how seriously he takes his responsibilities as our Congressional representative.

U.S. President: Hillary Clinton
I’ll start by saying that I supported Bernie Sanders in the primary, and I wish he were the Democratic nominee. And I’ll point out that I’m not a huge Hillary Clinton fan. And I get, at least partly, why Donald Trump is so appealing to so many people. People across the country are frustrated with politics, and even aside from his policy positions (and of great importance to me, his apparent bigotry, sexism, and xenophobia), supporting Trump feels like a dramatic rebuke to the way politics usually happens. But for me, being “anti-establishment” isn’t enough. This is the White House. It’s not just about symbolism. And many of Trump’s positions seem truly dangerous, like his overt pandering to Vladimir Putin and his threats to launch a trade war. And while I know that “his temperament” is now a talking point, I find it genuinely frightening to think that we could end up with a President who is so easily goaded into lashing out at whomever just criticized him. I don’t want him anywhere near the nuclear codes, for sure, but his reactions – by all appearances rash and impulsive – could also wreck havoc on the economy, or unnecessarily escalate violent conflicts, or further weaken the tenuous balance of power in the Middle East, or any number of incredibly dangerous and harmful things. It may be that his temperament and attitude has served him well in the real estate business and in his reality TV career, but for all of Clinton’s weaknesses the idea of Donald Trump as the President is a much, much more frightening scenario.

And, despite her weaknesses, Clinton is unequivocally qualified and prepared for the role. I remember how dismissive people were when she first won her seat in the U.S. Senate (saying many of the same things we are hearing now), and within a couple of years she had earned deep respect from Democrats and Republicans in the Senate for her work ethic, her respectfulness, and her commitment to the office. It’s safe to say that if she wins she will make a lot of decisions I disagree with, but from my perspective Clinton is without question the better choice. And she is strong in all of the ways that Trump is weak. She is clearly thoughtful and deliberate (especially compared to Trump’s impulsiveness). She brings an impressive depth of knowledge and understanding about a wide range of critically important issues. I don’t know if Trump is actually as bigoted and sexist as he appears to be, but in sharp contrast Clinton clearly understands the importance of diversity and inclusion. And on and on.

For most of us here in Golden (and, if the polls are any indication, for most Americans), neither major party candidate is a perfect option, but for me Hillary Clinton is by far the better choice.

Jefferson County Commissioner (District 1): Marti J. Smith
I don’t know Marti personally, but the more I learn about the race and about her the more clearly she has become my choice for District 1. She’s got the right attitude about protecting Jeffco residents from overdevelopment and attracting good jobs to the county without undermining the very qualities that make Jeffco so special.

Jefferson County Commissioner (District 2): Casey Tighe

Serving on the county commission is often a thankless job, but the commissioners have a great deal of influence over important issues like open space, land use, and the criminal justice system. Casey has a good track record advocating for fiscal responsibility, smart economic development, and strengthening the county’s criminal justice system. I’d be happy to see him earn another term.

Regent of the University of Colorado: Alice Madden
I’ve known Alice for a long time and think very highly of her. She is super smart, thoughtful, and capable. I’d be thrilled to see her serve on the CU Board of Regents.

Regional Transportation District Director (District M): Dave Ruchman
Dave has been a stalwart champion for light rail and improving the transit system across the entire Metro region. He’s also been supportive of Golden’s efforts to protect our community from the many high-speed beltway proposals over the years.

State House (District 24): Jesse Danielson
I don’t know her very well, but it seems like she’s working hard and doing a solid job. Her bills in this last legislative session include the rain barrel bill (making it legal – finally – to collect and use rainwater for your lawn or garden), requiring that businesses competing for state contracts pay people fairly for their work regardless of gender or race, protecting senior citizens from abuse, and creating better job opportunities for military veterans.


How to Vote

You should receive your ballot within a few days (I just got mine today). There are 24-hour drop boxes at Golden City Hall (911 10th St.) and at the main Jeffco building (100 Jefferson County Parkway). You can also mail it – just be sure to attach postage. The key is that it must be received by Tuesday, November 8, so the sooner you drop it off or mail it, the better, plus the sooner you do that the sooner your name will drop off the political phone call lists.

If you have any questions, I suggest you contact the Jefferson County elections office (303-271-8111).

No Place Like Home


I’m very excited to share that my good friends Mary Anne Hitt and Anna Jane Joyner last week launched their new podcast: No Place Like Home (on iTunes, and also available on SoundCloud). Their goal is a human-centric, optimistic look at climate change and the climate movement, and so far I’d say they are pulling it off in spades.

The first episode features filmmaker Jesse Sweet of the Emmy-winning series Years of Living Dangerously (a project on which Mary Anne and Anna Jane both worked a bunch). I had a blast doing the second episode (which they just published) with them, talking about Bernie, the climate movement, and our film Waking the Sleeping Giant. And I know they’ve got more terrific episodes on the way.

Please check it out, and if you like it please subscribe and rate it on iTunes (that’s super helpful for Mary Anne and Anna Jane!).


Right-wing Populism Always Punches Down

Jonathan Smucker, on Medium:

“… despite its ostensible anti-elitism, right-wing populism always punches down, unifying ‘the people’ (some of them) by scapegoating a demonized other: blacks, Jews, homosexuals, immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims — take your pick — depending on the opportunities available to the particular demagogue in the given context.”


Waking the Sleeping Giant Update July 21, 2016


It’s wild to think that after two years of working on this film, yesterday we began editing.

Jon and I spent the previous five days holed up at camp (his cabin in upstate New York) cranking on the script. Kathryn is deep into campaign mode now (she makes a living running campaigns) and couldn’t join us, sadly, but we were able to confer with her along the way. We’ve now got a solid script for most of the film and will fill in the rest over the next few days as Brad works through the first couple of acts in Premier.

There’s still a fair bit of filming to do … some important interviews, a few follow-up interviews later in the fall, the conventions, GOTV and the election (and we’ve got a crew filming at the GOP convention in Cleveland – more on that later), etc. But after all this time planning and filming it’s really cool to actually be assembling the story that’s been slowly evolving in front of our eyes and our lenses.

It’s also a bit strange, since we are now editing before finishing all the filming, but that’s a necessity for hitting key festival submission deadlines and our end-of-December completion date. This is a film and a story that really need to launch into the world early in 2017 after the election. Over the next couple of months we’ll finish as complete and polished a version of the film as possible for the initial festival submissions, and then complete a final version in December after the election and our final post-election reflection interviews are done. But we’ve got a really good handle on the stories and the arcs and how they all fit together, and it’s exciting to see Brad Johanson, our editor, actually start cutting the pieces together.

And now that we’re starting to put sequences together, it’s also just really cool to the images and story flow together on the screen.

Sharing Trails: The “That Person is Working Way Harder Than You” Principle

One of Golden's most popular hiking, running, and mountain biking trails.

Chimney Gulch (one of Golden’s most popular hiking, running, and mountain biking trails).

The early morning light and long evening light lately has been awesome for getting out on the trails around Golden, but as the numbers go up the potential for conflict predictably goes up as well.

For years now, I think the mountain biking community has done a really good job of creating and enforcing a culture of responsible riding, at least in Jefferson County. The vast majority of riders I encounter when running are friendly and courteous, and pull over to let runners and hikers pass. The handful that barrel past, or don’t make room, or rip around blind corners (a few months ago I saw a couple of downhillers on Chimney Gulch take out a mountain biker going uphill), or are just otherwise rude still have a disproportionate impact on everyone else’s experience, which obviously fuels tension and controversy, so hats off to the community for continuing to do as much as they do to sustain that culture of respectful trail use.

I ride once in a while but mostly run, and in my experience the runners are usually friendly as well, but I’ve seen just as much rude behavior from runners toward mountain bikers as the other way around. Hopefully we runners can do just as a good job sustaining that same sort of respectful culture as the bikers do.

But even as a mostly-runner I disagree with Jeffco’s expectation that mountain bikers should always yield to everyone else. It makes sense to me that peds and bikers yield to horses, and on flats and uphills I for sure appreciate that bikers yield, but if I’m passing bikers heading uphill as I’m running downhill … I think it’s crazy to ask the bikers to yield. Uphill is tough whether you’re on foot or in the saddle, and the way I figure it the pedestrians and bikers traveling downhill should always yield to the pedestrians and bikers slogging their way uphill. That just seems like common sense.

If it were up to me I’d probably retain Jeffco’s approach with that one change. Call it the “Yield to the Sloggers” rule, or the “That Person is Working Way Harder Than You” principal, or maybe the “Be Kind to the Uphillers” mantra: if you’re heading downhill on a bike or on foot, make way for anyone heading the other way.


Jacob’s Golden Update: April 8, 2016

1) City Council Advances Plan for Large Annexation

2) Your Input Mattered: Street Giveaway Plans on Hold

3) A 2016 Election Endorsement: Ed Perlmutter for Congress

4) Golden Bike Library Arriving in June


1. City Council Advances Large Annexation Plan

At its February 25 meeting, City Council approved a resolution authorizing the execution of an agreement to annex more than 100 acres on the north side of town (the undeveloped land between Mountain Ridge and Golden Gate Canyon Road).

The point of annexation is to make it easier to develop a property by granting access to utilities and services the owners can’t easily access otherwise, so deciding whether to annex a property into the city limits is one of the more important decisions a City Council makes. And because annexation decisions are such a big deal, they deserve vigorous community input before the Council makes any decisions.

Instead, City Council seems to be doing exactly the opposite, formally expressing its support for this annexation without the benefit of a study session discussion, town hall meetings, discussion in the Informer, or taking advantage of our community email newsletters (like Judy Denison’s and mine) to solicit input.

This specific proposal would allow the property owners to build a few more houses clustered next to the existing homes while zoning the rest for agricultural use. That doesn’t sound so bad, except that the proposal includes no guarantees that the rest of the property won’t also get developed later. The owners of the property (the Brunel family) are friends, and when they say they don’t intend to develop the rest of the property I believe them.

The problem is that the annexation is permanent. If the Brunel family ever sells the land, or if some of the family members change their minds, or if new family members who want to sell and develop the land come into the picture, today’s promise of protected open space turns into the very thing I suspect most Golden residents oppose. All it takes is a development-happy City Council – at any point in the future – to change the zoning (and change the comprehensive plan if they feel they need to), and all of that property turns into houses or a strip mall. Much of Golden was agricultural, until it wasn’t.

I encourage City Council to make a serious, energetic effort to engage the community on this proposal, making sure to understand what our vision is for that part of town, and then making sure that if we do annex the property that it actually accomplishes that vision. I know there is some discussion about seeking permanent protection for the property by purchasing the development rights through a conservation easement after the city annexes it. A conservation easement is exactly the right strategy, since it will provide permanent protection, but doing the annexation and then attempting to the conservation easement makes little sense to me; the annexation will likely increase the property value, so the city would be negotiating with less leverage (after the property owner has already been annexed) for a property that would then be more expensive as a result.

Council’s formal support for the annexation is one step of several before the deal happens, and you still have an opportunity to weigh in. If you have any thoughts about Council’s declaration of support for this annexation, or the apparent lack of enthusiasm for soliciting community input, or the idea of requiring a conservation easement as part of the deal in the first place (as opposed to something we hope might happen later), I encourage you to email or call Council and express your views.


Kudos to councilors Saoirse Charis-Graves and Pamela Gould, incidentally. Both supported tabling the resolution to give the community some time to learn about the proposal and weigh in before the Council’s vote.


2. Your Input Mattered: Proposed City Street Giveaway on Hold

In my last newsletter (back in December), I wrote about a proposal for the city to give Arapahoe Street between 13th and 14th to the Calvary Church. Much like the annexation proposal above, street vacations involve the community permanently giving away an asset – one of our streets – to a private entity. I expressed two main concerns: a) maybe we shouldn’t be permanently giving away a street in downtown Golden, and b) that City Council was gearing up to give away this city street with barely any public input.

Well, a bunch of community members weighed in expressing their concerns, and before City Council got to the decision point Calvary Church withdrew its request. Your input – making a fuss about something that looked like it was about to go through without any real discussion – had a real impact on what happened in our community.

This proposal could return, and hopefully if it does City Council will make a more vigorous effort to let folks know it’s happening and to encourage input from community members.


3. A 2016 Election Endorsement: Ed Perlmutter for Congress

The Presidential election is getting all of the political buzz these days, and for good reason, but it’s worth remembering that the November ballot will include a bunch of other offices and issues. One person I’m proud to support early and enthusiastically is Golden’s long-time Congressman Ed Perlmutter.

Ed has always been thoughtful and fair, he’s always been a strong advocate for Golden, and he has always been straightforward with us about where he stands and why. He’s incredibly hard-working, genuinely friendly and accessible, and champions many of my own views and values: supporting public education and public schools, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, ensuring that veterans get the health care they deserve, and campaign finance reform (including reversing Citizens United).

I know there are some Bernie supporters mounting a primary challenge against Ed, and I admire their energy and commitment, but as a Bernie supporter myself I can say without qualification that Ed is the right guy for CD7.

4. Golden Bike Library Arriving in June

From the Department of ‘Hey, That’s Pretty Cool’ comes a new two-year pilot program set to launch in June: the Golden Bicycle Library. Thanks to grant funding from the Colorado Department of Transportation and Denver Regional Council of Governments, Golden residents and visitors will be able to check out one of 40 bikes from the Golden Visitor’s Center. In the second year of the program, the city plans to create an additional bike library location at Golden’s light rail station (at the Jefferson County building).

The Winding Road to the Revolution

When we started filming Waking the Sleeping Giant a year ago, our plan for a documentary film was based on a straightforward premise: there is something really important and potentially monumental happening out there across the country, a deep frustration at the way the game is rigged in favor of the wealthy and at the expense of ordinary working Americans.


My Waking the Sleeping Giant co-producer Jon Erickson passed through Golden over the weekend on an epic road trip from his home in Vermont. He’s now in Des Moines for a very long day of Iowa caucus filming.

When we started filming, the most exciting opportunities for movement building seemed to be around a growing economic populism on both sides of aisle. The left wing version was readily apparently in the political energy around people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, but it was quite apparent on the right as well. Minimum wage ballot measures passing in red states and Republican presidential candidates opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership and rallying against the economic elite were just two of the most visible signs.

And there are people across the country that recognize the potential to build a new political movement rooted in this widespread political anger and love, to borrow a phrase from Zephyr Teachout. Bernie Sanders, for instance, explicitly called out the opportunity to create a political revolution by building alliances with strange bedfellows … working people on both sides of the partisan divide who understand how the billionaire class has taken over the political process and the American economy.

But a couple of interesting things happened on the way to the revolution. First, the terrorism/national security narrative has almost completely drowned out the economic fairness narrative on the right. GOP presidential candidates are saying very little now about these issues, and if there ever was the opportunity to transcend party lines with an appeal to taking on the billionaire and corporate class it is less clear now.

Second, a well-organized and highly motivated race-focused movement ran headlong into the class-focused campaigns of the left-wing standard bearers like Bernie. #Blacklivesmatter activists aggressively disrupted campaign Clinton, Sanders, and O’Malley events, protests against police violence have forcefully intruded into the politics of large cities and of Democratic politics writ large, and now all three Democratic candidates are aggressively incorporating racism into their political critique and policy positions.

Bernie’s campaign has offered an object lesson in the success of race-focused activists to force a shift in priorities. Although Bernie has always taken strong pro-civil rights positions, his most consistent and vigorous prescription for tackling inequity of all kinds had been focused on jobs and economic fairness. In the face of intense pressure from #BlackLivesMatter and other race-focused activists, Bernie now explicitly acknowledges that job creation, stimulating the economy, and reducing the power of corporate America are insufficient; his political agenda now overtly and prominently includes a broad range of attacks on structural racism and race-based violence.

Although our film has from the beginning been a story about the effort to build a 21st century movement built around economic and political fairness, over the span of a nearly 2-year production schedule (not to mention the nine months prior in pre-production) the story itself is changing. It’s exhilarating and slightly terrifying at the same time. Something important is happening out there – a rejuvenated political movement is afoot – and we’ll follow it wherever the story takes us.