Jerry Kopel

Where is Tom Gavin when we need him? For three decades, the Colorado public was treated to Gavinisms in the Denver Post. Most politicians turned to Gavin's column before they read the headlines, just to make sure they weren't being skewered. And they often were.

Preparing to turn over my legislative collection to the Denver Public Library Western History Section, I came across these gems:

This comment from Gavin could apply to almost any governor over the past 26 years:

"I suppose if you pin me down, I will have to admit that criticizing the Legislature is open to all -- that it is, in fact, almost a civic duty, like jury service and golf. Some will argue, I am sure, that the governor is a citizen, too, and thus has just as much right to bash the Legislature as anyone. But some also ask whether the governor has been in the state long enough during his term in office to maintain citizenship." Denver Post column, 1985.

Back in 1965 there were so many new legislators in the House that one was named to the Joint Budget Committee and another was named to chair Local Government:

"The voters, in their infinite wisdom, have this year presented the 65-seat State House of Representatives with 36 spanking-new factory-fresh legislators. They're not only new, but many seem as skittish about lobbyists as ministers are about chorus girls. When they're not safely within the House chamber, they're moving at a clip favored by those who suspicion the presence of a process server." Denver Post column, Jan. 27, 1965.

After many years of exile from majority control, Gavin viewed Democrats as follows:

"To be a Colorado legislator and a Democrat, is to be humble. And patient. And long-suffering. It can also lead to crabbiness at home, but that is seldom talked about." Denver Post column March 27, 1983.

Absolute power does what? Here is what Gavin had to say about closed caucuses. To those not at the capitol during those years, it means a caucus not open to anyone except a legislator of that particular party:

"Legislators are thought of as deliberative bodies, and the phrase implies a weighing and shifting of public argument by men and women of open and independent mind. But the 46th, and most particularly the Senate, was this year about as independent as a a chain gang.

"Senate majority party Republicans this year used the caucus as a sort of a rump -- and private -- legislature. Whenever confronted with a subject of even the slightest sensitivity it was likely to zip off to thrash it out behind closed doors and arrive at a group decision to which all 20 Republicans would be bound." Denver Post column 1967.

Gavin often wrote about a do-nothing legislature as seen by the general public, and he termed that look as exasperation.

"Exasperation is helpful. We all know this. Exasperation causes the vital juices to flow and is good for the complexion. If it weren't for government, some would have to marry to get their daily minimum exasperation requirement.

"So do something to show your appreciation. Take a government to lunch someday soon. Remembering of course, the Sunshine's law reporting requirement. It is not wise to butter-up government in secret anymore, particularly if yours is a hard-drinking government and likely to blab to the press." Denver Post column, 1973.

Gavin understood the legislative addiction to newspapers.

"Public men are fond of saying they pay no attention to the press, are indifferent as to what is written about them. When you hear this, be kind. Indulge the speaker, but under no circumstances believe him. Only a glance from the gallery is needed to see that a newspaper may enter the Senate chamber in a state of vigor and health, but it will totter out on crutches, having been passed from hand to hand and relentlessly read into a condition of lump exhaustion." Denver Post column, 1980.

Once in a while, Gavin got in a good (and true) joke as was his right:

"State Rep. Gerald Kopel attended a meeting of Central Denver Democrats the other morning and was asked to come to the podium and say a few words, but replied that he would speak from right where he was in the audience, thanks, as the last time he had accepted such an invitation he returned to find that someone had swiped his seat." Denver Post column, September, 1985.

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

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