A guest op-ed column in this morning’s Denver Post puts forth an interesting if flawed idea about how Colorado PERA should navigate the choppy waters of the coming months with its steely captain, Greg Smith, no longer with us.
Columnist Earl Wright, a banker and board member of the right-leaning Common Sense Policy Roundtable suggests that, given the time-urgency to come up with a workable and politically possible fix for PERA’s funding and structural woes, the PERA board needs to move now to appoint a well-known, highly respected figure to represent it in talks with legislators. This person must be
someone with stature, experience and rare leadership talent…They must understand the urgency of the moment and the narrow window of opportunity to find a solution that’s fair to all. And we need someone who will make these negotiations their sole mission over the next few months.
The first name Wright mentions is Lt. Governor Donna Lynne, a Democrat. While Lynne might command widespread respect, the odds of her jettisoning her gubernatorial campaign for the thankless, dead-end task of negotiating on PERA’s behalf strikes us as unlikely at best.
In the current political climate, others on Wright’s list seem equally problematic for different reasons. Former governors Bill Owens, Dick Lamm? It’s hard to imagine PERA’s board going with a rock-ribbed Republican like Owens. Lamm has been out of the game for quite some time, and has a penchant for speaking his keen mind with a bluntness and candor that often ruffles feathers. Wright doesn’t mention another former governor, Roy Romer.
He does mention Dan Ritchie, former University of Denver Chancellor, business executive and, most recently, chairman of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Someone with Ritchie’s varied resume might hit closer to the mark. If this idea takes hold, scores of other names undoubtedly will surface.
Wright’s column is useful because it raises an important question for PERA members and others involved in this high-stakes moment. Greg Smith’s sudden death was untimely on many levels. From PERA’s perspective, losing a tough, savvy, and passionate advocate could not have come at a worse time.