Our Monday was a full day, one filled mostly with conference panels. But we managed to fit in a capitol tour and dinner at a French restaurant!
Denver State Capitol Tour, by Victoria McClendon-Leggett
Approaching the Colorado State Capitol, we couldn’t help but be drawn to the breathtaking architecture…
…and as we entered and our eyes adjusted to the light, we could see that the interior was also just as beautiful. Our large group of seven was unable to join the guided tour group. Luckily, we found an extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide in Professor Yawn, who had done his research on the State of Colorado. We learned that the name Colorado means “colored red” in Spanish, and that this is the reason for many of the red designs painted into the ceilings throughout the building.
As we wandered through the halls, we couldn’t help but notice many architectural similarities between the building and our own Texas state capitol, and Professor Yawn pointed out that they were both constructed within a few years of each other by the same architect, Elijah E. Myers. We also learned that the Colorado State Capitol, in spite of being in The Mile High City, is actually only the third highest capitol in the United States in regards to elevation above sea level. Holding first place is Sante Fe, New Mexico, at 7,199 feet, and second is Cheyenne, Wyoming, at 6,062 feet above sea level. We were excited, though, when we realized we’d be able to see two of those three during this one trip!
The dome itself is actually “only” 272 feet high, which is smaller than the TX Capitol’s and the US Capitol’s, but impressive nonetheless.
We also had the opportunity to visit both the House and the Senate, both of which were impressive chambers….
…and we even heard a real or, possibly, tongue-in-cheek on the floor, in which one member may have misheard (depending on the source) the final vote on a bill.
Not all was seriousness, however. We had a chance, for example, to see if we could “stuff” a phone booth.
And, we dropped in on a tour…
…and learned that many visitors had, through much imagination, seen various images in the fabulous patterns in the Capitol’s rose onyx stone. In one case, for example, visitors see General George Washington in his common three-point hat.
Also, tying some things together, we were able to see art from Allen Tupper True, whose art we’ve seen in previous museums. In the Capitol building, he did large murals showing the history of the state.
ASPA Panel: Smart Cities, by Karla Rosales
After our self-guided tour of the capitol led by Professor Yawn, we headed to our first panel of the day at ASPA. We arrived just in time for the Presidential Panel “Smart Cities: A Comparative Examination.” The panel was presented by Julia Richman, Chief Innovation and Analytics Officer and Interim Chief Information Officer for the City of Boulder, Emily Silverman, Technical Program Manager for the City and County of Denver, and John Tolva, Principal of CityFi in Chicago.
They discussed developments and difficulties that smart cities are facing. There has been a tremendous acceleration of technology in our country and as a result, smart cities are rising. Some cities are implementing technology into their policy decisions. But even though technology is advancing extremely fast, many cities are not advancing at pace. Cities must understand how to evolve to keep up with the advances: addressing slow processes, making decisions and implementing more quickly, cutting red tape, and incorporating transparency.
Some cities have hired innovation officers to assist with implementation of innovative tools for policymaking. As we learned in a previous panel, data is crucial when it comes to policymaking and luckily technology resources are advancing to improve data gathering systems. The panel pointed out that it is time for cities to evolve and begin using advanced data systems to improve data already in place. “Data is our new oil,” one of the panelists pointed out.
Data, performance management, and intelligence are the great tools to advance and grow as a smart city. Interpreting data is one of the key components to transforming city policies by analyzing what problems the particular city is facing. Some of the problems could be traffic fatalities or air quality. For example, air quality data could help us determine if there is an issue. Then, as a solution air quality sites could be implemented to keep track of the quality of air. This is especially important when determining recess time for students, especially for students suffering from asthma, among other considerations. If the sensors determine poor air quality on a particular day, there might be cause (data-based) to reduce the recess time on that day.
However, as technology evolves cities face additional, systematic problems. Security is one component that could be at risk. We must find new ways to protect data. Cities should have complete control over their data by using a secure cloud that allows for privacy and control. This is only one of the potential risks facing technology advancement. Even though data and technology advancement is very important, community involvement is also a component needed to make a difference in a city. The city needs to come together to figure out the ultimate mission and what they are hoping to accomplish.
ASPA Session: Career Fair, by Christina Perez
The four LEAP Ambassadors headed for graduation in a few short months decided to sharpen our networking skills. We headed towards the ASPA Career Fair to learn about job opportunities in the Denver area. We spoke with potential employers from The City and County of Denver, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Adams County, Colorado, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. We handed out resumes, business cards, and shared LinkedIn information.
ASPA Session: Salary Negotiation, Christina Perez
After the Career Fair we headed to a workshop on how to be successful in salary negotiations. The presenter’s advice included a few steps to help get what you want out of the negotiation. First, he offered that the applicant should always put the ball in the hiring manager’s court—let the employer make the initial offer and negotiate from that point. Second, do your research ahead of time, which includes searching through career websites such as Glassdoor.com, obtaining information from the company’s human resources department, speaking to others with similar positions, and even looking at the cost of living in the city that you may have to relocate to.
Third, have a required and preferred salary in mind so you can have an idea of how much you want to earn. The fourth and most important tip he gave us was to never answer the following question, “What are your salary requirements?” He elaborated on his statement and explained that answering this question would limit any negotiation. After receiving an offer it is important to take time to think about it. Overall, his tips were helpful and meaningful to the Ambassadors who will be joining the workforce in the coming months. (editor’s note: One of the LEAP Ambassadors who attended this program had a salary negotiation meeting the next day, making the workshop particularly timely).
ASPA Panel: Evidence-Based Policy Making, by Bianca Saldierna
Our last session for the day was in fact the last Presidential Panel, and, in our opinion, ASPA saved the best for last. Speaking at the Evidence-Based Policymaking session was Bipartisan Policy Center Director of Evidence-Based Policymaking Initiative Nick Hart, who had an extensive career working for the federal government.
The heart of the panel was centered around what the bill H.R. 4174 is and its benefits. The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP) was the result of a bipartisan agreement between Congress and the Obama administration, with the sole purpose of incorporating evidence into government operations to effectively create public policies. The piece of legislation understands that better use of data may improve the way government programs operate. Eight months were invested in the fact-finding process and were followed by a series of meetings and surveys. The results were distilled into twenty-two recommendations, in fact, all unanimously endorsed by all fifteen commissions (which does not happen quite often). Nick Hart cited the five principles of the Evidence-Based Policy which include: Privacy, Rigor, Transparency, Humility, and Capacity. Moreover, the themes of the commission’s final report had a large focus on improving access to data, implementing stronger privacy protections, and expanding its capacity to fill in the existing gaps. Because of the emphasis on privacy protections of data, the Nacional Secure Data Service (NSDS) was established to facilitate access to data by bringing it together in a secure and transparent way to utilize across entities. However, there was a large and well-founded concern around the idea of building a data clearing house as it had not worked in the past (1960s DataBank). Among the recommendations of the commission were modernizing privacy protections and strengthening the federal capacity for evidence building. The recommendations had over one hundred endorsements. In fact, back in January of this year, the thirty-six former heads of the U.S. Statistical Agencies endorsed the recommendations and called for a quick action. Although the legislation is currently under congressional action, it has already gone a long way as it has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and pending approval by the U.S. Senate.
Dinner at Bistro Vendome, Christina Perez
Today, we had French food for dinner at Bistro Vendome, a restaurant suggested by Victoria. We headed down 16th street mall and made our way to the smell of wonderful food.
The restaurant is named after Place Vendôme a favorite for locals in Paris. The name was picked to reflect a similar restaurant but this time in the heart of Denver. The owners desired it to be a local favorite in a historical downtown. We began our meal by trying new foods. Most of us had never had Escargot, but today was our lucky day. Karla enjoyed it and even had two! We each enjoyed trying different entrée options such as Lapin á la Moutarde that included rabbit and Venaison Sous Vide that included venison. We also had the opportunity to try duck liver, and other interesting foods. We finished our long day with some tasty dessert. Each of us tried their famous Crème Brûlée , and Bianca, Karla, and Christina shared the Grapefruit Bavarian!
Union Station, By Karla Rosales
After leaving dinner on our way to the car…
…Bianca and I noticed a bus that read “Free Mall Ride” and drove down 16th street mall. As Stephanie pointed out, it read two of our favorite words “free” and “Mall” so without giving it second thought, we ran as fast as we could (despite the heels) to the bus stop before it departed. The ride ended at Union Station where Professor Yawn and the rest joined us for a fun walk exploration of the station.
We have been to Washington, DC’s Union Station and to Kansas City’s Union Station (our favorite), and this was smaller, but also beautiful.
We bought a few souvenirs, reflected on a good day, and headed back to our hotel, awaiting another day of learning and fun.