Sarah Levison, Longmont City Council Member at-large
Times-Call Guest Opinion, May 26, 2010
Once again, unjustified smear tactics are on offer to substitute for reasoned public discourse and civil debate on policies and issues.
The May 22 opinion piece written by Chris Rodriguez, which contains nothing but his typical unrelenting and spurious personal attacks, serves no purpose but to deflect and divert public discussion from the true issues. As Ronald Reagan used to say, “There you go again. ” It is my belief that my actions and behavior during the May 18 council meeting are within the norm of previous meetings of the council. I invite readers to review the video of the meeting, on the city’s website: www.ci.longmont.co.us /agendas_minutes.htm.
The fact is that Mr. Rodriguez is trying to deflect attention from the reality that the current City Council has disassembled the Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act or LFCPA. In particular, the council voted to remove the quasi-judicial role of the Election Committee. This means that there is no longer a citizen-led, independent review of the financing of local elections.
This committee was an innovation that was singled out by the nonpartisan group Colorado Ethics Watch for an accolade in the “Good” category in its 2009 Ethics Roundup report. They said, “most notably, the City Council approved and implemented the task force’s recommendation to create an election committee” and “Longmont’s campaign finance regulations are stronger, city officials are better advised on campaign finance issues and an enforcement mechanism now exists to hold political actors accountable for skirting the law. ”
Thanks to the council majority, it exists no more.
There was a good reason that the Founding Fathers enacted the principle of separation of powers. Judicial review or, in this case, quasi-judicial was meant to prevent the majority from subjugating the minority through legislation. The majority may rule but it does not have the power through legislation to diminish the rights of those in the minority. We have seen this principle upheld in court to assert both voting and civil rights.
Now we must go back to a system where campaign reports have a closed-door review. The people who adjudicate this process either directly work for the council or have their budget controlled by them. The council now becomes the fox guarding the henhouse and can effectively shield campaign finances from public scrutiny.
Tuesday, May 18, by a majority vote, the council chose to make our elections less transparent and gave themselves more control over the process. A trademark phrase made famous by Ronald Reagan applies here: “Trust, but verify. ” The health of our democratic process requires a system that is aboveboard and accessible to public review. Do we choose to seek quicksand or aim for solid ground?
The council majority selected to dump everything back in the box and throw it back into a locked closet. Their solution means the public must once again find a method to get the key holders to unlock the door, turn on the lights and find the box. Don’t let Mr. Rodriguez’s pugnacious tone allow you to be distracted while the interests of a few privileged power brokers are preserved and government takes away your right to be informed.