Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Call from the White House – A Lesson in Democracy

Location: Denver, CO, USA
Listening to President Obama's remarks. — in Denver, CO.
After finishing a solid week of skiing with my daughter for spring break, I get an email from the White House that says, "The President will travel to Denver, Colorado for an event on gun violence reduction. You are cordially invited to attend President Obama's remarks as a VIP guest."

I assume that this is because one year ago, (April 17, 2012) the Board of Trustees approved my signing-on to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition.

The next day, my daughter and I are packing because she takes off on a plane, on the same day the President is coming to Denver. She is enrolled in a gifted program in Florida. The grounds are gated. They have had lock-down drills. She knows about the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary.
I call the White House and explain that I'd love to attend but I'll have my daughter with me. The response is that there are no guests allowed. After a bit of pleading, they say that there is a slight chance a ticket may become available at Denver Mayor Hancock's office that evening.

We talk about the opportunity of meeting the President, how Air Force One works, and the U.S. Secret Service, as I play the Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime. At eight years-old, she may not fully appreciate her dad's humor, but she does understand the dangers of gun violence.

U.S. Forest Service
Boulder District Ranger, Sylvia Clark
is there to accept the Proclamation
That evening, I bring her to our regular Board of Trustees meeting where I present a few proclamations, including a Proclamation Conveying Thanks and Gratitude to the U.S. Forest Service for Closure of the Magnolia Road Site to Shooting. Boulder District Ranger, Sylvia Clark is there to accept the proclamation. My daughter acts as the town's official photographer. Her work is now published in the local Mountain Ear newspaper.

At our BOT meeting, I continue to enforce our municipal code, which states that BOT members cannot abstain. They are elected to have an opinion.

She's not only been my campaign manager, but she's been to several meetings, takes notes, and has compared and contrasted the differences between the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), our Board of Trustees meetings, and a few of our Mayor's Task Force meetings. In many ways, it's harder to fool an eight year-old, than adults.

At night, we have a routine where she can ask her father any question, and I have been quizzed on wide range of topics including astrophysics, sociology, metallurgy, sustainable construction, and the interpretation of Salvador Dali's art. That night we talked about the Ancient Greek, or the Athenian style of democracy, where political satirists and comic poets contributed directly in lawmaking, instead of elected officials. We compared the monarchy of King Henry the VIII, to the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the 2nd Amendment.

On the floor of DRCOG,
The Denver Regional Council of Governments
In her astute observation, she determined that Mayor Sue Horn (chairwoman of DRCOG) was the most skilled at leading a debate between people who might disagree. And the least successful? The Nederland Task Force on Marijuana (an Athenian model) where people interrupted each other, including a person who stated that they couldn't say what they really wanted to, because there was a child in the room.

The next morning, I wake-up at 4:00am to shovel the driveway and get ready for the Denver Metro Mayors Caucus (MMC) meeting. Sometime after midnight, I got a message that Mayor Hancock's office, did indeed, get another VIP pass for my daughter. Queue-up Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime.

The Metro Mayor's meeting was very candid and enlightening. Mayor Jim Gunning and Director, Catherine Marinelli once again, exceeded my expectations for providing such an informative meeting. But, because the agenda was running a bit behind schedule, my daughter still thinks Mayor Sue Horn of DRCOG is the top diplomat in our region.

We arrive at the venue for the President and go through security as predicted. We are met by White House aides and escorted to our reserved seats directly behind Denver's First Lady, Mary Louise Lee – a very fascinating and pleasant woman to talk to.

It turns out to be a very long wait for an eight year old. (Later, we learn that President Obama was meeting with more important people like the governor, attorney general, Denver Mayor Hancock and Mayor Steve Hogan from Aurora.)

So, in the mean time, my daughter meets plenty of other elected officials like Senator Michael Bennet, (who gave an impressive legislative update earlier at the MMC meeting), as well as State Senators Rollie Heath, and Evie Hudak. We had a great conversation with Mayor Stu Fraser from Telluride. She also met Governor John Hickenlooper for the second time.

From Left: An Unknown Mystery Mayor?, Manitou Springs Mayor Marc Snyder, Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum, Jacqui Shumway, Colorado Ceasefire, Englewood Mayor Randy Penn, Lafayette Mayor Carolyn Cutler, Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser, Louisville Mayor Bob Muckle, Nederland Mayor Joe Gierlach
Jacqui Shumway, board member of Colorado Ceasefire, was passing out green awareness bracelets, for Sandy Hook victim, Daniel Barden. Click here for their Facebook Page. She gathered several mayors together, and again, my daughter was the photographer. I later learned that the Mystery Mayor is a nice retired guy whose nephew is a Denver Police Commander that sat behind the President. Mayor Snyder referred to him as the Mayor of Arrowhead Golf Course.

President Barack Obama in Denver
By the time President Obama was ready to come out, we were hungry and a bit exhausted. Once the President walked up to the podium, the crowd became enthusiastic. His remarks were were so common sense practical, it was refreshing, and adding that he was about twenty feet away from us, we became inspired. My eight year old daughter got another great photo on the iPhone.

This is how the Denver Post covered the story:

President Barack Obama says "no conflict" in reconciling new gun laws with gun rights.

If you look closely, we are seated directly to the right of the stage.

I noticed a picture of Senator Heath and myself in this article of the Colorado Statesman.

The following morning, the White House asked for my reaction. Here's what resonated with me:

"In our town of Nederland, Colorado (a small town nestled in the Rocky Mountains) we have a deep rooted respect for individual rights. That is why I was so pleased to hear President Obama say, "There doesn't have to be a conflict between protecting our citizens and protecting our Second Amendment rights."
As a mayor, I have focused on addressing our town's local differences in a very open, and democratic way. The Presidents remarks resonated with me, when he said, "Well, the government is us.  These officials are elected by you.  ...  I am elected by you. ... It’s a government of and by and for the people. ... We've got to get past some of the rhetoric that gets perpetuated that breaks down trust and is so over the top that it just shuts down all discussion."
In our small town, we pride ourselves on our ability to respect individual rights, and work together to come up with solutions, and I am grateful that the President is thinking along the same lines on a federal level.
I also am thankful that I can play a role in government, here in Colorado, under the leadership of Governor Hickenlooper and Colorado's state legislators. Even in our small town, we can feel the impact of a state that that has the will to address tough issues like responsible gun laws, which are so important for both large cities and small towns alike."
I take my daughter to the airport thinking that I have left her with an experience of a lifetime and a lesson in democracy. But, I forgot one thing: The Filibuster – the political version of the silent treatment. By contrast, in our local government, there are no abstentions. We are elected to have the conversation.

The talking heads chime in. Here's how ABC News reported the story:

Our children have a complicated world to live in. Going through the process of explaining politics to an eight year-old brought clarity of purpose for me. I learned a lot from this perspective. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...