On October 02, 2012, ex-mayor Bryan Baum appeared in a full color, full page ad extolling the honesty and integrity of the oil and gas industry. He was a “concerned citizen” and a supposedly credible spokesman for the frackers who stood at the city gates, salivating as they waited for permits which would allow them to stuff drills into Longmont.
Mr. Baum’s previous lack of demonstrated knowledge or understanding of the fracking industry might lead a cynic to presume that he received some benefit for his prescience, but I doubt we’ll ever know. On the presumption however that some fee or honorarium was paid, he now faces a much larger question – that of conflict of interest.
Citizen Baum aligned himself with the same energy interests that are suing the city. Nothing wrong with that, but mayoral candidate Baum, if successful, might well have placed himself in a very difficult position. There will be Council debates and votes on issues arising from the affirmative vote on Question 300 and the lawsuit now under way. Because of his support from the energy interests, would a Mayor Baum recuse himself from these debates and if he did, who would lead, support and defend the majority which voted against the energy industry?
It’s interesting to note that on Mr. Baum’s election web site, you will find no reference to fracking, drilling, petition drive, vote or pending law suits. It’s as though the most contentious and important issue in recent Longmont history had never happened. “Poof!” . What petition? What vote?
Beyond this of course is the future of the city as determined by a court. Sixty percent of us voted to deny fracking yet still we find ourselves on trial. The court’s decision will likely be appealed and possibly even moved to the US Supreme Court. Whomever sits in the mayor’s chair will make a considerable difference; this election bears mightily on where we go from here to life after the final decision. This election is far more than a personality contest between a bristle and a smile- it’s a battle between one who might have to bend and one who will defend.
The issues of exactly where Mr. Baum stands on the matter of fracking and the vote we cast last November are prime. Thus far we are left with many questions, no answers, a full page ad and the possibility of conflict of interest.
On the other hand, Dennis Coombs holds an MS in Engineering and understands both the technicalities and the politics of fracking. He has demonstrated a quiet leadership which has brought collegiality and positive results to Council, all invaluable attributes which will serve him well as he guides Longmont in the difficult coming years.
I believe Mayor Coombs has earned the trust and the votes of this community. Regardless of where we find ourselves once the lawyers and courts have spoken, this city will still need a wise and determined hand. The oil and gas folks are unlikely to quietly fold their tents and disappear; we need leadership that understands the issues, the wishes of the majority and a mayor who will step up to defend our city with energy and determination.
I urge you to vote. Last November a mere 33% of registered voters cast a ballot which, although not unusual for a municipal vote is frankly rather shameful. Call me a scold or the pejorative of your choosing, then mark your ballot and get it into the mail.