“Dear John” to Amazon

Dear Amazon,

It’s not you, it’s us.

Well that’s not true, it’s you too.

You see, we don’t really need you.  We’re a free spirited, independent state and we have been for some time.  We have somebody already. Actually, we have a lot of somebodies. We have too many somebodies, to be frank. Our biggest problem is a lack of housing for all of our somebodies, which, honestly, you’re not going to make any better by coming here.

You talk about bringing in 50,000 new jobs, but we’ve seen similar circumstances where only 7 out of 100 of your new jobs are going to be filled by our unemployed locals, and only 16 others are going to be from our people transferring jobs.  The rest are going to be from people transferring in from out of state, and that’s going to create congestion on our already crowded roads, create longer lines at our favorite venues and send our already-high cost of housing into the stratosphere. We currently have a 2% unemployment rate -among the lowest in the nation-, so you coming here and bringing in a ton of new people isn’t really going to help us out.

We’re also not sure that you’re worth it. We’ve seen what other cities have had to give up to get you. Newark is offering you $7 billion in tax subsidies to attract you, and if that’s the kind of city you want to go after then we just can’t be that.

We know you love us.  We know we’re a hot commodity.  Who wouldn’t love our beautiful mountains, our Broncos, our incredibly friendly atmosphere, our craft beer culture, and our great climate? But there’s a city out there for you, we promise.  Whatever you decide, we wish you all the best. You’re still young, you’ll find someone.

Sincerely,

Denver

Can Our Servicemembers Trust Donald Trump if Captured?

SGT La David Johnson’s convoy was caught in a complex ambush in Niger on October 4th, 2017 by members of an ISIS allied terrorist cell.  In the resulting firefight his convoy, which was made up of mostly up-armored pickup trucks, tried desperately to get out of the kill zone and left his body behind.  An extensive search for his body lasted for two days before it was finally recovered.  However, what if SGT Johnson was not killed immediately in the ambush, but survived the initial firefight?  What if he had been rendered unconscious or incapacitated, and captured by ISIS?  These are questions that should confront the American foreign policy establishment, as they are quite pertinent with our current president’s previous statements on his feelings toward captured servicemembers.

On July 18th, 2015, then-candidate Donald Trump asserted that “I like people who weren’t captured”, referring to Senator John McCain and trying to discredit McCain’s status as a war hero after enduring years of torture in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” POW camp in North Vietnam.  Trump also made statements about SGT Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. Army Soldier captured by the Taliban, saying he should have been thrown from a helicopter without a parachute or set in front of a firing squad for desertion (this was, of course, without a trial).

If SGT La David Johnson had been captured, would he have been able to remain confident that the full might of the United States government would be working toward his recovery with a man at the helm who has made such statements about POWs?  There is a sacred trust between service men and women and our government: that we will never be left behind, and in return that we will fight on never lose faith in our government.  The code of conduct is something that we live and die by, and we will never do something to discredit our nation.  But what happens when that nation, or its leaders, break faith with us?

Donald Trump has made his feelings toward captured servicemembers abundantly clear: you’re on your own.  This is a terrible thing to hear for someone in what is potentially the most terrifying, isolating and horrible circumstance a human being can find one’s self in.  It sets a deadly precedent for our service, and a weakness that our enemies are sure to exploit sooner or later.  We, as Americans, can only pray that they are not successful.

Could California Fires Mean More Growth for Colorado?

Thousands of people are displaced in the latest batch of California wildfires, with entire communities going up in flames.  40 people are dead, and countless homes are gone.  What this could mean for the people of California is only hypothetical at this point, but as I was canvassing yesterday one of our residents had an interesting point.  She believed that many California residents could end up moving to Colorado.  I’d like to delve into that a bit more.

When entire communities are destroyed, it does become more difficult to rebuild in the same spot that one lived.  It’s easier to uproot and move, and Colorado is an ideal location to move to with its incredibly low unemployment, good climate and great lifestyle.  In addition, most of the fires are in the Napa valley area which has incredibly high home values, meaning that the insurance money many of the residents will receive will put them in good stead to find something comparable in the Denver market, where home prices -although they’re high for us- are comparably low.

We Coloradans may be about to see quite a few new faces coming out of the flames of California.  I propose that we welcome them to our state, and continue the fight to build enough housing to accommodate everyone in Colorado who calls this their home.

No Freeze-Out in Denver

I’ve lived all over (can’t avoid that being in the Army) and one thing that you encounter in some places is what’s known as the “Freeze-Out”.  It’s big in Seattle, especially.  It’s where you move somewhere and you just can’t seem to integrate because people aren’t especially welcoming or, if it’s not that, then there’s just not much chance for an “in” for newcomers.

That’s not the case here.  My wife and I went to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science today and then took a walk around City Park, and we met people from all over.  People move to Denver because it’s where they want to build their lives.  It’s a great city with the most welcoming people I’ve ever known.  That’s a big part of why I wanted to come back here when I retired from the Army.

We have to find good ways to meet the challenge of Colorado’s growth.  We have 250 people moving here every day.  We have to find ways to make sure that there are enough roofs to put over their heads and ways to get them to and from work.  That’s why I’m working to increase building and improve our infrastructure.  We’re not going to stop growing any time soon.  That’s not who we are.  We have to just grow smart.

Growth, Amazon and 50,000 More People

Colorado is the second fastest growing state in the U.S.  Rent is up 33% over the last 5 years, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.  The cost of the average house is going up even faster.  A house that cost $190k in 2009 is going for $398k now (Zillow) and that’s in my neighborhood of Valverde, where things are still relatively cheap!  People are moving here at a rate of 250 per day, so is it really something we want to contemplate to bring Amazon here with another 50,000 right into downtown Denver?  Some of the sites they’re looking into are right here in the middle of District 5.  That means our rents and costs of living are going to skyrocket, because those jobs are mostly above $100k per year.  Amazon has, in the past, hired about 23% of its employees from locals, and the other 77% have come from out of state; there’s no reason to believe that trend won’t continue here in Denver.  In fact it will likely be even more pronounced considering Denver’s incredibly low unemployment rate.  That means at least 39,000 new people flooding our housing market and adding to the already skyrocketing rent prices.  It’s hard enough to find a place that we can afford as it is.

Now I do understand the argument that bringing Amazon is a long term strategy.  People are worried that this boom won’t last forever and we need to keep an eye toward long-term growth.  My counterpoint to that is rather that we could very well become another San Francisco if we don’t think about our housing situation, where we have an abundance of high paying jobs but nowhere to live.  A teacher or a police officer can’t afford to live in San Francisco, and if we don’t pursue strategies that incentivize building density and manage our growth then they won’t be able to afford to live here either.

Then there’s the question of what incentives we’re pushing toward Amazon to attract them to Denver. Each year, as the New York Times reports in a major expose’ series, corporations are tapping America’s state and local governments for at least $80 billion in cash grants, free buildings, income tax credits and exemptions, property tax abatements and more.  What are we, the taxpayers getting out of this?  What are we offering Amazon for the pleasure of their company?  Newark is offering them $7 billion in tax subsidies.  That’s a whole lot of money that could go to roads and schools.  So what are we offering?

Amazon is a giant, and it tends to stomp on anything in its path.  Denver is a city already struggling to deal with growth.  Does it really make sense to try to squeeze a giant into a crowded room?

Immigrants Help Make America Great

When I was a Detachment Commander in Afghanistan I had a guy in my Det named Reinaldo.  He was a Brazilian immigrant who had grown up in a monastery and then decided that the monastic life wasn’t for him (he liked girls too much) and joined the Brazilian Special Forces.  Apparently that wasn’t hardcore enough for him so he came to America, became a citizen and joined the U.S. Army and became a member of our own Special Operations.  Reinaldo, or “Ray Ray” as we called him, was 43 years old- 10 years older than the next oldest guy in my Detachment- but could outrun anyone in the unit.  The guy was a beast.  He was, and still is, an amazing Soldier.  This is one of my favorite pictures from that deployment: it’s of me re-enlisting Ray Ray during a lull in a firefight.  People like Reinaldo come from all over the world to contribute their incredible skills to America because we offer opportunities here for them to go above and beyond what they thought possible.  We close ourselves off to them at our peril.  Immigrants truly help make America great.

Welcome

Welcome to my page.  I know, it’s a bit new and scary but I promise we’ll get through it together.  Thanks for checking out what I have to say, and I know I can get a bit wordy but I promise it’s worth it.  I’ve got a lot of things to talk about on the issues that really matter to Denverites.  Especially on the issue of affordable housing.  Did you know that rent has gone up 33% since 2012 while income has only gone up 16%?  Yeah.  It’s bad.  These are the things I want to bring to the forefront while we keep campaigning here because I want to make Colorado affordable again!