Category Archives: Colorado News

Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Cirque du Soleil productions never cease to amaze and the company always finds a way to astound its audiences, no matter how many productions one sees.  A similarly-named company, “Cirque Productions,” creates competitive shows and does a good job with “Cirque Dreams Holidaze.”

For those of us spoiled by the big tent and large arena events of Cirque du Soleil (including both traveling and permanent shows), the question for a relatively smaller-scale indoor production limited by the stage size of even a large venue is, “How much dazzling can Cirque Productions do with heights limited to 40 feet and lengths limited to 100 feet?” — which is the case for the beautiful Buell Theatre in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.  It turns out the production company can do a lot.

Relying on a constant stream of multiple levels of activity, “Holidaze” never stops — with one act seamlessly flowing into another.  And, as expected, some of the feats performed by the cast are as extraordinary as even a seasoned Cirque audience expects them to be.

The physicality of Cirque Productions is ever-present in “Holidaze” but the show uses singing performances to tightly weave together its stories.  There are ample interactions with the audience to make everyone feel they are as close to the production as one can be.  And the individual “dreams,” themselves, can be riveting at times.

Though Cirque audience veterans expect extraordinary feats of physicality — and “Holidaze” delivers — some of the most entertaining moments are unexpected.  One, in particular, does not involve typical Cirque out-of-this-world acrobatics; rather the audience is totally mesmerized when they watch a series of costume changes on stage which seem absolutely impossible to achieve in the seconds the performers are given.  It is one of the most amazing feats seen on a stage.

“Cirque Dreams Holidaze” is a production which no one in the family should miss.  If you see only one holiday production this year, “Holidaze” should be the only one on your list.

Tickets are available through Sunday, December 22nd, at www.DenverCenter.org or 303-893-4100.  Get them before they all disappear just like Cirque magic

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Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show,” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays , and on ION Television and COMCAST Entertainment Television as well as at www.HarberTV.com.  He has been involved in the arts for many years, including serving as the President of the Nancy Spanier Dance Theatre of Colorado, a member of the Boulder Philharmonic Board of Directors, and a cabinet member of the Macky Auditorium Renovation Fundraising Campaign for the University of Colorado.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2013 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber.  All rights reserved.
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A Teachable Moment: The Failure Of Amendment 66

In a stunning electoral defeat, Amendment 66 — representing a much-needed re-writing of the byzantine Colorado Finance Act — went down in flames despite seeming to have everything on its side.

Its supporters amassed an extraordinary eight-figure war chest — well over $10 million — which it used to blanket airwaves, e-mail addresses, Social Media ads, and mailboxes — in a dominating effort to convince voters to increase taxes by almost $1 billion annually.  Even more poignant was its lack of a well-funded opposition.  That, alone, made may pundits believe it would pass either due to the enthusiastic response of voters or, at the minimum, it would slip through unnoticed by a disengaged, off-year electorate (similar to the marijuana proposal which voters surprisingly passed in 2012 due, in part, to a lack of organized opposition).  If only supporters voted in a lackluster turnout, the proposal was sure to pass, right?

Who could be against smaller class sizes, returning art and music to the classroom, funding preschool for at-risk kids, imposing tougher standards on teachers’ classroom performance, and helping poorer school districts in desperate straits?  That would be the same as voting against the American flag and apple pie.

The proponents, however, failed to address key issues on the minds of many voters — relying on their money, ads, and organization to win support.  These issues included challenges which have been in the public eye for years but have been intentionally ignored by higher tax proponents.

Many voters do not believe spending more money on education automatically results in a better education for students, proportional to the dollars spent.  And increasing taxes in a sluggish economy did not resonate.  Given the chronically poor results in many school districts across the state and nation, despite major increases in per-pupil spending, many voters understandably question whether or not spending more actually accomplishes much.

Although Charter Schools were included in the sharing of revenue, they continue to remain at a financial disadvantage to traditional public schools.  Mustering support from Charter school families requires a greater commitment.

Changing Colorado’s Flat Tax from a single rate on net income to a two-tier structure was too great a “slippery slope” for voters to risk (i.e., why not three tiers in a few years and then four?).  A true Flat Tax has many attractions.  Going backwards was not palatable.

Many voters were worried a significant portion of the new tax funds would be used to pay outstanding retirement obligations.  They realized this meant the funds would not go into the classroom.

Proponents of more funding continue to make the mistake of “going it alone.”  Years ago, on my public affairs program, two of the guests debated education funding.  One was the President of the Denver School Board.  She wanted more funding for the classroom.  The other was a proponent of funding charter schools and offering vouchers for private schools.  I suggested they both could get their way if they teamed up.

My idea was for the two sides to join forces and seek new tax revenues such as a one penny increase in the state sales tax which would be totally dedicated to kindergarten through high school education funding.  This would include a voucher program for financially disadvantaged families (to give them some of the choices wealthy families already have) and new support for Charter schools to put them on equal footing with traditional public schools.

The proposal would guarantee public schools would always be funded at least at the same level as prior years, even if the schools were to lose enrollment. This should make the public school teachers, administrators, and parents happy because their per-pupil funding would increase.  At the same time, the rise of private schools and increase in Charter schools would foster competition among all schools.  This could only be good for students as each school was pressured to do better.

Until those seeking statewide tax increases for public education decide to join together with their opponents, they are unlikely to succeed.  Now is the time to reach out and develop a plan which will help all of Colorado’s children.  With the failure of Amendment 66, the opportunity is before us today.

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Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show,” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays , and on ION Television and COMCAST Entertainment Television as well as at www.HarberTV.com.  He was the valedictorian at Fairview High School in Boulder and received degrees from Princeton and Harvard Universities.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2013 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber.  All rights reserved.
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State’s First-Ever Recall Is A Huge Victory For The NRA: Major Colorado & National Implications Of The Recalls

The successful recall of two Colorado State Senators due to a campaign spearheaded by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights organizations sent a shockwave through Colorado which reverberated across the entire nation.

The successful legislative recalls were the first to ever occur in the history of the State.  One of them took out the sitting State Senate President, John Morse, a former police chief who already was term-limited and whose legislative service was scheduled to end in 34 weeks.  The other recall took out State Senator Angela Giron, who presided over a Democratic-leaning district in Pueblo.

The two State Senators faced irate voters who were upset with their support of what appeared to be relatively modest gun control legislation.  One bill limited the size of gun magazines to 15 rounds in an effort to force a mass murderer to either reload or use additional weapons (but clearly did not impact hunters).  The second bill expanded background checks for gun purchases so it would be more difficult for criminals to buy weapons.

Nevertheless, the NRA and other groups saw the legislation as restricting the 2nd Amendment rights of citizens and were concerned this was the beginning of an effort to limit citizen rights.  By targeting these two legislators, the gun rights groups wanted to send a message across the country that, “If you mess with our rights, we’ll come after you.”  That message was sent to every elected official in America on November 10th.

Another shock to Democrats was the fact money not a determining factor — passion was, and the recall supporters had that advantage.  Both sides spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the two hotly contested races so neither had an overwhelming monetary advantage.  This made the NRA win even more impressive.

IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE

Going into the recall elections, Democrats had 20 State Senate seats compared to 15 for Republicans.  The outcome resulted in Democrats having 18 seats to the Republicans 17.

The good news for Democrats is it could have been worse.  Had another recall been successful, Republicans would have gained control of the State Senate.  Gun rights supporters did attempt to recall Democratic State Senator Evie Hudak at the same time they targeted Morse and Giron.  The recall effort barely fell short of collecting enough signatures to force Hudak to defend her seat in a swing district.  Had Hudak faced a recall, it would have been likely she, too, would have been defeated and suddenly Republicans would have controlled the State Senate with 18 votes to the Democrats’ 17.

FURTHER IMPLICATIONS

The results of the recall elections are foreboding for Democrats and represent a new opportunity for Republicans.  While Democrats understandably are urging everyone to “move on,” the reality is the successful recalls provided evidence Republicans now have a tactic which is more potent than many political experts had surmised.

There are many Democrats who supported what the majority of legislators thought was reasonable gun control legislation who now have to be concerned the NRA’s sights may be turned on them for the 2014 elections.  And what is different about the gun rights debate is that it is not about to go away.

The State’s most prominent race — the gubernatorial election — may be the new nexus for the issue.  Incumbent Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, who has been one of the most highly approved and most popular Governors in the country since his election in 2010, signed the two controversial pieces of gun control legislation.  He has to be wondering what the impact of his approval of the two bills might have on an election more than 1½ years after their passage.

One of Hickenlooper’s opponents, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, is a long-time 2nd Amendment rights supporter and has made Hickenlooper’s gun control legislation approval one of his major campaign themes.  Political pundits have been surprised at Tancredo’s strong showing in the polls — statistically tied with Hickenlooper in all four surveys published to date — but often have discounted Tancredo’s ability to ultimately gain enough support to win.  The recall election results may cause many of them to change their opinions, especially if Tancredo is successful in making the 2014 election a referendum on 2nd Amendment rights.

THE FUTURE

Colorado was a Red State which evolved into a Purple State.  With a fast-growing Hispanic population and significant influxes of citizens from other states, Colorado is expected to become even more Blue yet the 2nd Amendment issue plays well in a state where many residents hunt and others desire firearms for the protection of themselves and their families.  And many Coloradans see themselves as part of the Wild West.

It seems unlikely a candidate such as Tancredo can secure a plurality of the vote with a one-issue campaign but it now seems obvious the gun rights issue can firmly secure a base which allows him to go after the few additional percentage points he needs to win.

Other Republican gubernatorial candidates such as Secretary of State Scott Gessler and State Senator Greg Brophy, although trailing Hickenlooper, also are within striking distance so it appears, with the help of this one issue, Republicans have the opportunity to do something which has not occurred in Colorado for over half a century — defeat an incumbent, elected Governor.

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Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show” seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays and at www.HarberTV.com.  Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com.  (C) Copyright 2013 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber.  All rights reserved.

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