Ritter dog & pony show insulting, alienating

I was living in NC when Colorado’s governor, Bill Ritter, was elected, and therefore didn’t follow the campaign closely and don’t really know a lot about the guy except that he’s bound to be better than his predecessor, Bill Owens. Short of actually outlawing schools, Owens did all he possibly could to destroy education in the state, and I’m sure everybody in the tourism industry will remember when his dumb ass stepped in front of the cameras a few summers back to announce that “today, the entire state of Colorado is on fire.” He didn’t actually say “please take your tourism dollars to Utah,” but he might as well have.

Lately, though, I’m learning that a lot of my fellow Coloradans don’t much like Ritter, and this includes a lot of Democrats who voted for him. I’m starting to understand why. When Sen. Ken Salazar was anointed by Prez-elect Obama to take over the Dept. of the Interior, it fell to Ritter to appoint a replacement. As part of the process, he invited the state’s citizens to let him know who they’d like to see named to the slot. There were lots of possible choices, some good and some horrific, but it seemed like a nice way to factor in the Voice of the People.

As you may know, Ritter wound up selecting Michael Bennet, the head of the Denver Public School system. The pick was something of a head-scratcher. Bennet is well thought of by many who have dealt with him, and he is regarded as being very smart. However, there’s nothing in his résumé to suggest that he’s ready for this job, at least not right now. In tapping Bennet, Ritter passed over several pretty good candidates, including the very highly regarded former speaker of the State House, Andrew Romanoff. The reaction from those I’ve talked to around here has been hopeful puzzlement, for the most part. Nobody really gets it, but we’ll cross our fingers.

Which leads us to a story in today’s Denver Post, which reports that Romanoff got the most votes from the 3,000+ citizens who e-mailed their thoughts to the guv. Others getting some love included Mike Miles (who lost to Salazar in the 2004 Dem primary), Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (my personal choice), “Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, former state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, former Denver Mayor Federico Peña, [and] Democratic U.S. Rep. John Salazar.”

Guess how many votes Bennet got? Go on, guess.

Bennet’s name did not show up in any of the released communications.

Here’s my gripe. This was Ritter’s call. We can argue, if we like, about the wisdom of soliciting the opinions of others, including citizens, political leaders, business advisers, union heads and so on. But in the end, he didn’t have to ask anybody’s opinion.

So … why did he? If you don’t care what I think, that’s fine, just don’t waste my time pretending that my opinion counts. Not only is it a time-waster, it’s insulting.

Most of us are mature enough to understand that having our opinions heard and considered doesn’t mean that you always go with what we think. We appreciate that you listened and thought about it, though. But when you ask us to contribute and then carry on as though we never opened our mouths, that’s alienating. And that’s exactly what happened here, looks like. If Romanoff was the #1 vote-getter but Bennet had at least a handful of people writing on his behalf, I wouldn’t be complaining. The majority isn’t always right, and it’s entirely possible that the small handful of people were the smartest contributions in the lot.

It’s possible that Ritter was acting in good faith – we have no real way of knowing. But right now it doesn’t look good and I don’t feel very good about it. Over 3,000 people took the time to respond, and if they’re all feeling a little played, I can understand why.


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