Jerry Kopel

Knock on Doors

By Jerry Kopel

Jan. 9, 2010 

This column is aimed at legislators who are presently in office through the (1) Republican or Democratic vacancy committees vote or (2) have never had a convention battle, or (3) a primary, or (4) an opposition party candidate in the November election. It's also aimed for candidates waiting to take you on.

The 2010 Colorado election is modeled after the 2006 election when no presidential candidates were running. The entire state executive branch is up, as well as congressional seats, and this time an election for the United States Senate. 

What have you been doing to keep your name known to the voters in your legislative district? Are you active in community non-partisan groups? Have you been sending out e-mails on various radio-active issues in the legislature?

I'm sure there is one thing you have not done nor expect to do when you knock on home doors to talk to the voters. You intend to open the conversation by discussing what is wrong or right at the state legislature. Even though you are running for that office the homeowner, assuming he or she is still employed or voluntarily retired, is actually more interested in his or her home and the neighborhood.

"Is there anything I can do for you? Is the garbage pickup going well? Do they come each week on the same day? How about the lighting system in the block maintained by the utility company? Still too dark?

How about police service? Have they been coming back when needed? Are streets being cleaned, and potholes filled by city employees? When you call the city offices for assistance, are they courteous and prompt to assist? When a new cover of tar is added to your street, do they make sure it does not block water moving down your driveway to the gutters?"

You are running for the legislature, but you can do well by sounding like a city council person?  Let them ask you then about any state, city, or national issues. Let the homeowner know you will tell the city or county management concerns you discovered. You will do so and send a copy to the home owner. Be sure to praise the officials for their future positive action in the letters.

If the officials do act, that becomes known to everyone else in the block and hopefully the homeowner will let you know your intervention helped. Or else you follow up to see if intervention worked. Any plight is usually solvable and a thank you to the official   makes the next complaint even easier to handle.

When I did this, my positive vote in that block was always greater than it should have been based on political bias of the voters. One Republican legislator serving with me showed me an opposition document that found I was getting more Republican votes on a percentage basis that any other Democrat running in that district.

You have not knocked on doors before? I can tell you most times you will only get responses at one-third of the homes. But you can keep going back depending on how much time you have to try to reach everyone. 

I always left a note pad for each home as well as a printed list of phone numbers that tell the home owner how to get help from city or county officials.

* * *

One certain issue in 2010 is regulation of the occupation dispensing medical marijuana. Should the occupation be reviewed by the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies research staff? I have not yet seen this debated or considered. You can find the Sunrise review language at CRS 24-34-104.1. It begins:

"... regulation should be imposed on an occupation or profession only when necessary for the protection of the public interest ... establishing a system for review prior to enacting laws ...will determine the least restrictive regulatory alternative consistent with the public interest."

The dispenser should explain in writing the groups involved, the reason why regulation is necessary, the benefit to the public, the kind of regulation needed, and the cost.

It is possible for DORA to immediately begin the research and have it available for the 2010 session. DORA could review if it determines the unregulated occupation "pose an immediate threat to public health, safety or welfare".

Among the findings which could come from DORA:

(1) letting local jurisdictions determine whether a dispensary violated local zoning laws

(2) refusing to allow convicted felons to operate a dispensary

(3) halt site consumption of the marijuana at the dispensary

(4) require those waiting on patients to have attended educational lectures regarding the consumption of and potential bad effects that could occur based on the strength of the plant being sold, dosage provided and how ingested

(5) the examination and follow-up consultations by doctors

(6) liability insurance required for dispensaries.

On the other hand the legislature could pass a bill exempting marijuana medical legislative regulation without going through the Sunrise process.


(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado legislature.)

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