Friday, October 10, 2008

Romanoff Wins Prestigious Award for Public Service

Colorado's House speaker, Denver Democrat Andrew Romanoff, is one of the government leaders around the nation that have been named among the winners of Governing magazine's Public Official of the Year awards for 2008.

The award is given in recognition of "outstanding achievement in state and local government," according to a press release.

“These public officials each asked tough questions, and when they had their answers, they weren’t afraid to act," Alan Ehrenhalt, the magazine's executive editor, said. "Their leadership has led to unexpected progress—from reduced blight on foreclosed properties to the exoneration of inmates who were wrongly convicted to the removal of unsafe cold medicines from the shelves. These officials prove that by asking sometimes painful questions, smart, dedicated people can change government for the better.”

According to a press release issued by the magazine, Romanoff is being recognized because he "built a bipartisan coalition to take on the politically risky task of overhauling a constitutional provision that was crippling the state budget."

He is joined in receiving the award by St. Petersburg, FL Mayor Rick Baker, who spearheaded a building boom in his city’s downtown while improving schools, parks and public facilities in neighborhoods throughout St. Petersburg; Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who championed landmark infrastructure and health care legislation, while improving the management of state government and putting his state on a sound fiscal footing; Dallas County, TX district attorney Craig Watkins, whose push for DNA testing identified and freed 19 inmates who had been wrongly convicted, many of whom had been behind bars for years; Baltimore, MD, health director Joshua Sharfstein, who led a national campaign that called into question the safety and effectiveness of children’s cold medicines, prompting drug companies to pull the medications and resulting in new Food and Drug Administration rules; Hawaii's director of human services Lillian Koller, who overhauled her state’s system of dealing with at-risk children, cutting child abuse and reducing the number of children in foster care; Dayton, OH housing inspector John Carter, who untangled the webs of the mortgage services industry to determine which lending companies had the title to vacant properties, then worked with these companies to fix and maintain the abandoned homes; and Michigan chief information security officer Dan Lohrmann, whose pioneering efforts to keep state computers and networks secure are viewed as a model by technology officials around the country.

The award winners are profiled in the November issue of Governing and will be honored at a dinner November 12 in Washington, D.C.

This year’s group of recipients is the fifteenth to be honored by the magazine. Governing is an independent national magazine devoted to coverage of state and local government. It has a circulation of 85,000 state and local officials.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ritter Tells Coffman He Should Clarify that Voter Deadline is Election Day

Gov. Bill Ritter today urged Secretary of State Mike Coffman to immediately correct an error Coffman’s office made regarding the deadline for fixing an incomplete voter registration application. The deadline is actually Nov. 4 (Election Day), not Oct. 6 as previously announced by Coffman.

Ritter also asked Coffman to cooperate with the administration in seeking an expansion of early voting opportunities in counties across the state.

“We are less than one month away from an election in which record numbers of people will seek to cast their ballots in Colorado and across the nation,” Ritter said. “We must do everything we can to ensure Colorado is in full compliance with all provisions of the Help America Vote Act, that voters are not being improperly purged from the voting rolls, and that eligible and qualified citizens are not being improperly denied the ability to register to vote.”

The text of Ritter's letter is available here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Kennedy: State Investments are Safe

In the aftermath of turmoil on Wall Street and in the nation's credit markets, Colorado treasurer Cary Kennedy is insisting that the state's money is not at risk.

Colorado has almost $7 billion in investment holdings.

“The most important thing for people to know is that our first priority is protecting the safety of taxpayer funds,” Kennedy said. “We take a highly conservative approach in our investments. Our exposure to the ups and downs of the market is limited.”

Kennedy said that the state had not realized any losses up to this point, and that she was continuing to monitor both the national and the local economic situation.

“The state does not invest in equities, therefore we’re more insulated when the markets rise and fall," Kennedy said. “What we’re going through now in our financial markets is unprecedented, but we are as strongly protected as possible.”

Specifically, Kennedy said that the Treasury did not have holdings of asset-backed commercial paper or structured investment vehicles.

“We do not hold collateralized debt obligations (“CDOs”), and we are not holding money market funds that are in trouble,” she said.

The state treasurer, a Democrat elected in 2006, also explained that Colorado had no equity stakes in companies such as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley or Merrill Lynch. About one half of one percent of the state’s investment holdings is in two subsidiaries of AIG.

In December 2007 Kennedy discontinued the state’s securities lending program due to concerns she had about the market’s direction.

“Our analysis last December showed it wasn’t worth the risk to continue the program, so we stopped it,” she said.

Kennedy also put the state’s investment holdings online as one of her first acts after taking office. “Transparency is the best way for people to have confidence in what we hold,” said Kennedy.