Thursday, December 25, 2008

Loopy for Hickenlooper

Back in 2004, the American people were introduced to the self-proclaimed "skinny kid with a funny name": Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. It certainly was a funny name, and oddly enough, funny names seem to have less trouble becoming household names. Fast forward four years to the 2008 Democratic convention. As Barack Obama prepared to accept the Democrats' nomination for president, the skinny kid with a funny name this time was not really a kid, but worked tirelessly to bring the convention to his hometown of Denver: John Hickenlooper.

Just as Chicago is famous for "the Loop", Denver is famous for Hickenlooper, its mayor. He took office in 2003, and has since launched numerous programs, including aid for the homeless, improved transit, and green incentives which have bolstered the city's reputation. I had known that Hickenlooper (or as they affectionately refer to him here, Hick) was mayor for a few years now, owing to my Denverite relatives. But I didn't know exactly what he was doing until the convention came around, and Denver became the darling of purple state-hungry Democratic electioneers.

Upon visiting my family this time around, I actually learned that a couple who were old friends of our family had close connections with Hick. We all had planned a get together at our house, and they were nice enough to stop by. After brief chit chat between them and our family, I casually asked them a few questions, thrilled to be talking with people inside the Hickenloop.

First off, they had been able to work their connections to get seats for Obama's speech in back in August. Not good seats, but seats. I asked them what the convention had been like, they said it was slightly wilder than a typical Broncos game, but knowing Broncos fans, that's saying something. They also said that Hick had gotten the idea to bring the DNC to Denver early on, and had worked diligently to make sure it happened. They said he was a nice guy, a friendly guy who had helped them in the past.

He had been roommates to one of them when they were just out of college, and was responsible for introducing the two of them. He had originally been trained as a geologist, but lost his job during a recession in Denver. In the early 90's, he took his savings and co-founded the Wynkoop Brewery in LoDo, then a sketchy factory wasteland and now a fully gentrified swingin hood with its own baseball stadium. Since he took over the Mayorship, Hick has done the same thing for the entire reputation of Denver. One of them told me that her out of town friends used to chuckle when she told them about Denver. Now, they nod politely.

They were very friendly about my formal line of questioning, and had nothing but good things to say about Hick. They told me that if I had been here two weeks earlier I could have stopped by his annual Christmas party and said hello. Too bad.

Later I heard some in my family, who heard rumors of Hick having a wild side when he was younger. I didn't really get to ask the couple along those lines, but at this point Hick seems to be anything but wild. He has been longtime friends with Colorado's Sen. Ken Salazar, and has expressed interest in filling Salazar's now vacant seat. Could Hick be a White Obama? Maybe, but I'm sure everyone in Denver will be sad to see their hometown hero go. If anything, Hickenlooper proves that "change" is not just about Obama. It's about the work one mayor has done, and that all mayors (including Tony V back home), officials, and citizens will be able to do. I never thought I'd say this, but hopefully in the future we'll all be Hicks.

1 comment:

  1. John Hickenlooper has done wonders for Denver and is just a terrific, open-minded leader who builds coalitions and looks for ways to solve problems. Excellent post, ObamathonMan.