Bennie Milliner had relatively little experience in social services when he took the Road Home job — and he was dropped straight into a heated conversation.
Denver’s Road Home, the city’s principal homelessness agency, is in the middle of a dramatic change. Following years of criticism, the city government is pushing to improve conditions at the shelters where hundreds of men and women stay each night.
Some of the signs are obvious, like the hundreds of beds rolling into new private and public shelters. Some of the change is more subtle: Mayor Michael Hancock has moved Bennie Milliner, a longtime ally who led the homelessness agency for five years, to a brand new job in a different department.
And what it means for the many, many people running for governor in 2018.
The conventional political narrative of Colorado is that we’re a purple state leaning blue after many years of Republican dominance. But Democrats have occupied the governor’s mansion for 35 of the last 43 years, and just one Republican, Bill Owens, has managed to win election to the state’s top position in that time.
Before Owens, the last Republican governor was John Vanderhoof, who lost his re-election bid in 1974 to Democrat Dick Lamm. Lamm went on to serve three terms and was followed by Roy Romer, another Democrat who also served three terms.
And after Owens, Colorado voters elected Democrat Bill Ritter in 2006, and he was followed by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is nearing the end of his second term.
Why was Owens able to succeed where so many others failed? And what, if anything, does this tell us about 2018?
“If we’re not saving money, the next downturn is going to be all that much worse,” said Henry Sobanet, the governor’s budget director.
The budget proposed by Gov. John Hickenlooper for the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2018, calls for public sector employees to pay more to stabilize their pension fund and for the state to maintain a 7 percent reserve, more than the current goal of 6 percent but far less than economic analysts recommend.