Guest Opinion by Sean McCoy

Sean McCoy - Ward 3 council representative

I would first wish to thank the voters and citizens of Longmont for providing me the opportunity to serve them over the last four years as there City Council Member for Ward 3. It has been my honor and a pleasure to do so. I also wish to ask you for your vote this November, so I may continue to focus on Longmont and the important issues that we face together in the future. I have served our community for many years on boards and commissions before I was elected. My dedication to the citizens of our community is unwavering. I have demonstrated to many members of our community that I am approachable and committed to the success of Longmont through these many years of service. I want the same things for Longmont that they do — well paying jobs, a healthy economy, revitalization of Main St. and the Mall, a state-of-the-art Movie Theater, and a vibrant arts district.

I am optimistic for our community’s future. We have great potential for positive growth and opportunities for the citizens of Longmont. I know at times, when we read or hear about jobs being lost in our community, the tendency is to get angry and want to blame those that are in public office at that time. But I see our most recent loss as a potential opportunity to focus on an area of our city that has for far too long been neglected as well as been taken for granted. The closing of the Butterball plant may offer a chance for a wind or solar manufacturer to establish a sustainable presence in our community. The physical building is very close to a rail spur and this may make for a reasonable argument for Brad Power, the City’s Director of Economic Development, to approach and attract green energy business that will provide primary jobs at all levels for the citizens of Longmont. To quickly address those that would site the issue of having a manufacturing business on our Main Street, I would like to point out that this sends a strong and visible message to other primary employers that the community of Longmont isn’t afraid of hard work and that we take our focus on attracting businesses and opportunities for the people that live and work here seriously and aren’t afraid to show it.

I am concerned that there has been a lot of unfounded political rhetoric, as there is in all political campaign. There are some that suggest that we have gridlock. There is no chance of that because of the seven member make-up of the council. Just because, on some small percentage of all votes taken, there is a 4 to 3 vote outcome, that does not mean there is gridlock. To have a spit vote is a sign of a healthy democracy. To always have unanimous vote of 7/0 only suggests council members aren’t working hard enough to represent all of the citizens that they represent. To always go along to just get along is not representative of the democratic process, and for all council members to fall in line like dominoes, or worse yet conduct the business of Longmont citizens behind closed doors, is just plain wrong. Others suggest that the city takes longer to process development or business applications through our Economic Development Department; this nonsense is unfounded. We have a best practice concept that we request of all who wish to annex into the city an “Exceptional Benefit to the City.” To comment on regulations in our city that impede business from coming to Longmont cannot be identified by those that spout such hogwash. To those who suggest there is incivility on council, I say that it is not uncivil to ask the tough questions on council. That is why we were elected, to dig deeper to see the exceptional benefit of issues that comes before council. Those that think being assertive is too aggressive clearly aren’t willing to fight hard enough for the community that they represent. I have fought for what is best for Longmont; and if I am reelected, I will continue to fight for all of the citizens of Longmont.

I am again asking you for vote so I may again hold the honor of serving the community I love and have had the privilege of serving for the past four years.

Occupy Roundup

From The Agonist:

October 20, 2011: Morning Update:

Protesters spark fear among some bankers

Student loan justice – Discharge the Debt rally

NPR Gets Radio Host Fired for Occupying

NPR Blackballs Freelancer for Occupying DC

What the NYPD Really Thinks of Occupy Wall Street

Obama still flush with cash from financial sector despite frosty relations

Student loan debts crush an entire generation

Citigroup to Pay Millions to Close Fraud Complaint

MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan gets yelled at visiting Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street can’t have jobs and the environment, James O’Keefe and think tanks and more

Occupy Wall Street moves to the boardroom

David Graeber: On Playing By The Rules – The Strange Success Of #OccupyWallStreet

California reportedly subpoenas BofA over toxic securities

Needless to say, a link does not constitute an endorsement of any story posted.

Post the stories you are reading in the comments.

More as it develops.

Coombs: The clear choice

The following endorsement of Dennis Coombs was offered by Robert Miner.

Dennis Coombs, Longmont's next mayor

Longmont’s upcoming mayoral election offers a clear choice. We get to choose between hope and fear; compromise and divisiveness; between a man who has created jobs and built one of the most successful businesses in Longmont, versus a man who has proven to have the professionalism of a schoolyard bully. We get to choose between Dennis Coombs and Bryan Baum. In my mind this is no choice at all. Dennis Coombs has spent the last 31 years working to make Longmont the best community on the Front Range. Meanwhile, since being elected in 2009 Bryan Baum has broken promises, bullied members of the community, and proven that his hostile ideology is wrong for Longmont.

In 2009, I voted for Mayor Baum. I believed him when he said that he would work to get the mall fixed. I’m a lower-middle-class worker who is tired of having to drive to Boulder to see a movie in a decent theater. Baum campaigned on one promise: Mall redevelopment. All it takes is a drive down Hover to see that he has broken that promise.

Dennis Coombs is a compassionate individual. He’s known as “The Pumphouse Guy” but he’s really so much more. Coombs has worked for charities like Habitat for Humanity and Children’s Hospital. He’s served on the LDDA, and proven that he has the leadership skills needed to bring this city together. When my ballot comes, I’m making my choice for a man who will be a true mayor for everybody. I’m choosing Dennis Coombs.

Seeking a Solution to the Sky Diver Plane Noise

From Bill Butler, Longmont, CO:

I understand that the noise from the Twin Otter airplane comes from the propellers.  I also understand that there are propeller designs that result in a much quieter plane, but these propellers are expensive. If true (and if they can be shown to be significantly quieter), how about the City of Longmont loaning the Skydiver outfit the money to buy the quieter propellers?  The loan (not gift) could be paid back with a “noise abatement surcharge” levied by the company on each jumper.

If the plane noise from Vance Brand cannot be significantly reduced, then there is no sense in expanding the airport, and citizens should therefore seriously consider CVBAN – Closing Vance Brand. This is not a crazy idea, but a real option, and one that has been done before. Before we do that, we should consider filing a complaint with the State against Boulder County and the City of Longmont for their failure to eliminate a public nuisance.

What’s Reasonable and What’s Not

The following is an open letter to City Council member Katie Witt in particular and Longmont City Council in general. —FRL

Ms. Witt, et. al.,

First let me say “thank you” to all parties who took the time to set up the forthcoming open house and those who will be staffing it. I plan on attending to learn more about what the options and plans are.  I found your letter to be open, welcoming and a fair invite to learn more.  I hope other residents attend also. May I suggest that you also post this to the Longmont Facebook page to increase exposure.

I do want to express some concern about what I perceive to be unintended verbiage on your part. Earlier this spring and summer it was outright stated in varying degrees by the city counsel, the airport and MileHi Skying as ‘fact’.

I wish I had the article in front of me to get a direct quote; it seems the only posts Opinion sections a day late so I can’t get it there either. I read it today at the DeliZone in Longmont (where the football game was on at a fairly loud volume and I could still just make out the Twin Otter buzzing overhead).  I speak solely for myself in this email but think that others may have similar opinion.

The point of this email:

In my opinion, the article indirectly suggested that the city counsel, the airport, MileHi SkyDiving, and the rest of everyone is on-board with the airport and that only a few people were being disruptive to the review process and/or being overly vocal about the noise and low flying planes.

I have lived in my house since March of 2000. During that time I’ve frequently watched MileHi Skydiving and enjoy watching the parachutes come down. Further, there have been plenty of times that I’ve driven by the airport and thought “oh yeah, the airport”.  Living within a mile or so of the airport I have at times forgotten about it since its been an insignificant airport and only occasionally made any real noise. While it would be my preference to have no airplanes overhead, I accept that I bought a house near an airport. That does not mean I surrender all rights to have an opinion, to be annoyed, and to mount a protest, as suggested by some parties. Nor did I ever sign a waiver. If I did, provide me a copy and I’ll apologize for my bad memory.

For eleven plus years, I’ve never filed a complaint against the airport but have been upset at times.  I accept a reasonable amount of noise during reasonable hours from good-neighbor pilots. And we have had that more or less.

MileHi Skydiving is no where close to reasonable on either front. Just because it’s not illegal doesn’t make it right. It’s a minor fear of mine that others will join the bandwagon of making more noise and doing crazy low-flying stunts because they know the city and airport will back them.

The reason I mention this, is that I’m (and I think I could say “we”) not on some crazed endeavor to close the airport or get the airport moved.

MileHi Skydiving is the disruptive party in the city. Not the residents who have been forced to take action. From my vantage point, there was no serious level of complaining going on concerning the airport up until MileHi Skydiving converted their operation into a noise machine.  It’s a beautiful day outside and I’d just as soon be doing any number of other things right now then writing this letter. MileHi Skydiving is “forcing” me to do this.

There is also the unfortunate timing that MileHi Skydiving became the disruptive party around the the same time the fight over the Airport Master Plan review flared up. For me, reading Mr. Baum’s article stating that he and the counsel would this time expand the airport regardless of public vote started this whole mess and THEN MileHi Skydiving stepped in and made it worse.  I think these two issues have become too intertwined but are of valid concern for me and others.  The fire was originally fueled by others, not us residents who were previously enjoying living a quiet lifestyle.

As Ms. Gibbs stated earlier today, yes the concerned citizens will push for airport closure or relocation if all else fails. We accept that doesn’t mean we will win, but it’s viewed as an option to fight for. But first things first. We are completely open to sit down and discuss the issues and try to reach an agreement. There seems to be some movement in this area from the other parties.  For that, I am appreciative. The verdict is still out though as to whether this is just lip service.

Some things need to be stated about the concerned citizens:

  • that it is reasonable for some subset of the 100,000+ residents of Boulder county to be upset about the noise
  • that it is reasonable for some subset of the 100,000+ residents of Boulder county to be upset about the low flying planes. The sad stunt plane accidents of the last week should be a reminder that things can go wrong. Maverick stunts in the air are dangerous even when performed by professionals with decades of experience. The stunts being performed in the Fort Collins with the crop dusters are just down right scary.  Maybe the pilots have to fly low due to the FAA; we been told ‘yes’ and that is what caused the statements that if it’s dangerous to fly into the current airport maybe then it’s best to move or close the airport. Not saying “Close, Baby, Close” but residents aren’t responsible for the fact that the city built these homes right next to the airport. Maybe if there had been a master plan this would have been avoided.
  • that is is reasonable for the general public to be concerned that runway expansion may mean more noise.
  • that it is unreasonable for elected officials and business owners to publicly insult these people in an attempt to discredit them. It’s bad enough when this happens in D.C. but much worse when our own neighbors are doing it us.
  • that it is reasonable that they city take responsibility when signing contracts with business of any type that might want to open a shop. I would hope the city would think twice before allowing strip mining operation on main street or a plutonium refinery in place of the Twin Peaks mall just because it makes money.
  • that it is unreasonable for the city counsel to be unconditionally closed to the opinions and concerns of the residents outside of the city limits because they have no voting power in the city.
    that it is reasonable that the concerned citizens be treated with respect by those who may disagree with their actions, even if there was only one of us.

Likewise, some things need to be stated about the city council, the airport and MileHi Skydiving:

  • that it is reasonable for MileHi Skydiving to run a business and to continue to operate out of Longmont airport
  • that it is reasonable for the city to operate a SMALL airport
  • that there is nothing wrong with being pro-business; there just needs to be reasonable controls in place. I’d love to see Longmont become something other than a rundown ghost of it’s past. However, one of my concerns is that MileHi Skydiving will scare other away businesses that might already be here or thinking about coming.
    • I wonder if the cool idea of an RTD station would really sell expensive condos if people come here and hear constant airplane noise.
    • For me, I’m glad to see the turkey plant leave and hope Mr. Baum (and the counsel) does redevelop that eye-sore. Yes, to pro business.  Just don’t say ‘yes’ to any company that comes to town waving money around. If you don’t have to agree about the noise concerns but I hope it gives the counsel pause when considering other business contracts in the future.
  • that it is reasonable that the city counsel, the airport manager and other parties at the airport, and the owner and operators of MileHi Skydiving be treated with respect by those who may disagree with their actions.

But those of us who are trying to find a reasonable outcome will continue to make every effort to win our fight for reasonably quiet skies above us.

  • Yes, we will be vocal via a soon to be growing number of methods/outlets.
  • Yes, we will continue to seek others who are concerned but haven’t come forward
  • No, we won’t go away because of threats, being ignored, or publicly dismissed as not-relevant
  • Yes, at times we will be frustrated and unhappy with the city, the airport, and MileHi Skydiving. This doesn’t mean it’s a personal attack. But yes at times it will likely seem that way. But I will speak for the group without permission when I say we will make every effort to avoid that from happening.
  • As we continue to seek a solution, this situation will invariably grow in exposure. That exposure is likely to cause discomfort. This isn’t desirable for anyone and is an unfortunate side effect. The sooner an agreement is reached, the more this can be avoided. At the end of the day, we’re all people just trying to live our lives, earn a living, and raise families. Let’s find a solution sooner than later.

Bill Van Dusen – Candidate for Boulder County Commissioner

Bil Van Dusen

Bil Van Dusen

Hello, my name is Bill Van Dusen and I am running for Boulder County Commissioner. I am running because I grew up in Boulder County and I am passionate about this beautiful place. My family lived in Boulder for a number of years and moved to rural Niwot and built Longmeadows Morgan Horse Farm. I was raised in the open spaces around Haystack Mountain and I was able to live my life as a part of the rural community.

My mother founded Cottonwood Park Square in historical, downtown Niwot. Throughout my childhood and as an adult, I frequently hike the foothills in Boulder County and I learned to treasure the natural beauty of this spectacular area. These are the things that have made me into the person who I am today and I want to make sure that we do not destroy these treasures through poor planning and neglect. As County Commissioner, I want to carry on the fine traditions and programs that the Commissions before me have established and I am committed to doing just that.

My wife, Beth, and I share a love for this unique place. Because of our ties to Boulder County, we have been actively involved in our community. We take seriously our responsibility to be good stewards; to preserve this beautiful place for future generations. Beth is an inspiration to me; my partner in this effort to protect and preserve Boulder County.

I am also a father and I see the future of Boulder County in my daughter’s eyes… a future filled with special things that she can find right here like a chance for a great education, to develop an understanding of the natural world, and to have high level career opportunities. I feel a responsibility to her and to all future generations to leave a hopeful, exciting legacy through my work as a Boulder County Commissioner.

Boulder County is a part of me; it is in my blood; it is what makes me passionate about preserving open spaces and the natural areas in the County, protecting our historical and natural resources, and maintaining strong and supportive communities through providing sustainable jobs and human services to those in need.

That is why I am running for Boulder County Commissioner. I am committed to preserving the way of life that has become the “Boulder County way of life” and I ask for your vote in 2012 to help me work hard to realize my commitment to you.

The Candidate: Bill Van Dusen

I am very excited about my candidacy for Boulder County Commissioner. My unique and diverse background makes the position a perfect fit for me. I have an extensive background in local government and community issues, professional employment, and leadership positions. My overall qualifications far exceed those of my opponents.

The Best Person for the Job

My Legal and Educational Experience

I understand the legal processes that it takes to be an excellent Boulder County Commissioner.

I have over 26 years of legal experience in the public and private sectors as well as in higher education administration. I am an educator, attorney, and a small business owner. I am committed to small businesses. As in-house counsel for a local finance company, I provide small businesses with legal assistance for their start up processes. My legal employment has included working in Colorado as a Deputy District Attorney, Assistant City Attorney, and as an Assistant Attorney General.

I have a firm grasp of policy and fiscal processes that a Boulder County Commissioner uses in carrying on the day-to-day business of the county.

As an administrator in higher education, I worked as a Director for Clark College where I had extensive experience in college-wide fiscal management and budgetary processes. I developed and managed grants and other alternative funding resources. At Regis University’s Student Services for the School for Professional Studies; I was the Director of Student Services where I supervised managed five satellite campuses throughout the Denver-metro area. I authored a national publication on student service policy that is used by colleges and universities throughout the country.

My Community and Government Experience

I have years of experience in being a key resource for local government issues including county and municipal issues throughout Boulder County that will be vitally important for the county in the years to come; experience that is broad-based and takes into account the diverse needs of major county stakeholders.

I am currently on the Boulder County Board of Adjustment and on the Board of Directors for El Comite de Longmont. I served on the Longmont Planning and Zoning Commission from 2000 to 2006 and chaired the commission for two years. I was a steering committee member for the Longmont Multi-Model Transportation Plan, helping to develop mass transportation options for the City. I served as chair of the North Boulder County Environmental Health Task Force and worked with the Lyons cement plant management and local residents on environmental issues. I coordinated the Governor’s Job Training Program for community colleges in the Denver metro area and planned, implemented, and coordinated the human resource department for Arrow Electronics. I worked with the Colorado Public Interest Research Group and drafted the statutory language for the 2000 Amendment 24 Colorado growth limitation initiative. I was also on the national board of directors for NACADA, a student services organization, creating and implementing policy for colleges and universities throughout the country.

  • Served on the Planning and Zoning Commission for the City of Longmont from 2000 to 2006 and chaired the Commission for two years
  • Served on the Multi-Model Transportation Planning Committee for the City of Longmont
  • Chair of the North Boulder County Environmental Health Task Force
  • Coordinated the Governor’s Job Training Program for the Community College of Denver
  • Directed the Veteran’s Upward Bound Program for the Community College of Denver
  • Implemented the “Ask-A-Lawyer” day for Longmont’s El Comite Organization to provide free legal services for the Longmont Latino community
  • Coordinated the Teen Court for the City of Arvada
  • Worked in higher education as an administrator and faculty member
  • Worked as a Deputy District Attorney in Colorado
  • Worked as an Assistant City Attorney in Colorado
  • Worked as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Colorado
  • Currently working as an attorney specializing in the area of tax controversy
  • Currently teaches classes in Business Ethics at the Metropolitan State College of Denver

Core Issues for My Campaign:

  • How to grow as a county
    • We need to maintain our open spaces areas which defines our communities and preserves our agricultural heritage
    • We need to carefully balance jobs and housing while preserving our great quality of life here in Boulder County
      • Smart Growth
      • Promotes employers locally who pay a living wage and are responsible members of our community.
  • We must make sure that our growth stays in urban areas and not sprawl out into surrounding open spaces.
    • By assessing the benefits of our Intergovernmental agreements
    • By promoting open spaces buffers that separate and define distinct communities
  • We must maintain our natural resources by being good stewards through careful planning including conservation programs that address water and air quality
  • We must adequately fund our County Human Services to make sure that the people who need help most do not fall through the cracks

I believe that I am uniquely qualified to serve as a Boulder County Commissioner:

  • I grew up in Boulder County and I bring a historical perspective to the Commission
  • I have served on numerous boards and commissionsover the years
    • Including, the Longmont Planning & Zoning Commission, the North Boulder County Environmental Health Task Force, the Governor’s Job Training Program, Veteran’s Upward Bound, the Longmont Multi-model Advisory Board, and currently, the Boulder County Board of Adjustment and the El Comite Board of Directors
      • I understand how to work through difficult issues that involve multiple stakeholders
  • As a practicing attorney specializing in tax law and business transactional processes and as a professor of business ethics, I understand all aspects of fiscal responsibility including sound financial planning and balancing budgets.

I have decided to run for Boulder County Commissioner because:

  • I care deeply about Boulder County and I am passionate about preserving the quality of life that we have all worked for. I believe that with strong leadership, good ideas, and clear vision we can continue to shape the future of Boulder County in such a way that our children will be proud to call this place home.


ACLU Distributes New Guide On Religion In Public Schools

From the excellent Religion Clause blog by Howard Friedman

ACLU Distributes New Guide On Religion In Public Schools

The ACLU of Tennessee yesterday released a new guide on religion in schools designed for administrators and teachers. The 4-page document titled Know Your Rights: Religion in Public Schools, covers a range of issues that commonly arise in school settings, including prayer, holiday celebrations and Bible distribution. A letter accompanying the publication urges superintendents to share the document with principals and teachers.

Here’s the entire text of the PDF linked above:

Know Your Rights: Religion in Public Schools – A Guide for Administrators and Teachers

Prayer in Classrooms and at Assemblies

The United States Supreme Court has long held that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits school-sponsored prayer or religious indoctrination. Forty years ago, the Court struck down classroom prayers and scripture readings, even if they were voluntary and even if students had the option of being excused. School Dist. Of Abington Township v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963); Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962).

Pledge of Allegiance

The Constitution requires that students’ recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance must be voluntary. Over 60 years ago the United States Supreme Court declared that compulsory flag salute and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance violated an individual’s constitutional right to freedom of expression. “No official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 642 (1943).

While school officials may encourage students to show respect for our country, they may not require mandatory displays of patriotism. Students have the constitutional right to remain seated and silently respectful during the Pledge of Allegiance, and cannot be otherwise compelled to salute the flag. Students who choose not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance may do so without parental consent. Formal discipline, including detentions and suspen-sions, cannot be imposed for non-participation, nor can other types of non-disciplinary penalties such as reducing grades, requiring transfers to different classrooms, or withholding letters of recommendations.

Distribution of Gideon Bibles

In Berger v. Rensselaer School Corp.¸ 982 F.2d at 1165-66 (7th Cir.), cert. Denied. U.S. 113 S. Ct. 2344 (1993) the court ruled that the Gideons Society practice of distributing Bibles to public school students in fifth grade class-rooms was unconstitutional. The court found both the Gideons in-school presentation as well as the practice of stacking Bibles by the classroom door with the encouragement to take one to violate the Establishment Clause. Although the teachers did not distribute the Bibles, and the students were not required to take a Bible, the court found the practice to be an unconstitutional governmental endorsement of religion. The court noted that the availa-bility of Bibles to students in schools carried the stamp of school endorsement simply because they were made available to students during instructional time and with the permission of the school. The fact that distribution oc-curs during school hours could lead a reasonable student to believe that the school endorses the program.

Equal Access Act

Religious clubs may hold meetings on public high school grounds in accordance with the Federal Equal Access Act as long as other similar non-curriculum related student groups are allowed to meet during non-instructional time; the club does not interfere with regular educational activities; and the school does not initiate, direct, sponsor, par-ticipate in, or promote during instructional time the religious activities of student clubs. Additionally, while faculty are commonly required to be present during student meetings for insurance purposes, their role should be restrict-ed to a custodial, non-participatory role. These measures are in place to ensure the separation of church and state.

Under Federal Law, “nonschool persons may not direct, conduct, control, or regu-larly attend activities of student groups.” 20 U.S.C. 2071 (c) (5). This statute en-sures that the motivation for these meetings is based on genuine student inter-est, rather than a method of outside manipulation by adults for their own pur-poses.

Holiday Celebrations

If public schools hold holiday celebrations, they should make every effort to accommodate diverse faiths during the holiday season. Students cannot be forced to participate in any event that offends his or her beliefs, and school officials should make every effort to accommodate diverse faiths during the holiday season by including their cus-toms, songs and traditional foods at parties and other in-school events. However, assemblies dominated by reli-gious music would raise constitutional concerns.

The United States Supreme Court has determined that schools may celebrate the holidays and create displays as long as they so do within “the context of the Christmas season” and the religious component of their display does not dominate but simply represents one element of a holiday that has obtained secular status in our society. Lynch v. Donnelly, 465.U.S. 668, 679, and 691 (1984). Under this ruling, a Christmas tree would be appropriate while a cross or a nativity scene would not. Crosses and nativity scenes are purely religious symbols that have not gained secular status in our society and therefore may not be displayed in public schools.

Prayer at Athletic Events

In Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 68 U.S. 4525 (2000), the United States Supreme Court ruled that a Texas school district’s policy permitting its student body to vote whether to have prayers before school football games and to elect a student chaplain to deliver the prayers over the loudspeaker violated the Establishment Clause. The Court rejected the argument that the decision to allow students to vote on the question of prayer re-lieved the school district of any constitutional responsibility if the students voted in favor of prayer.

As the Court explained: “[t]hese invocations are authorized by a government policy and take place on government property at government-sponsored school-related events.” Id. at 4529.

The Court also concluded that the school district’s ongoing and unconstitutional purpose had been to preserve the practice of prayer at football games, even though the wording of the school’s policy had changed during the course of litigation to omit any specific reference to “prayer.”

Finally, the Court held that the school district’s policy was facially unconstitutional regardless of the outcome of any particular student vote because it allowed the majority to determine the religious rights of the minority through an election.

The Court wrote: “Such system encourages divisiveness along religious lines and threatens the imposition of coer-cion upon those students not desiring to participate in a religious exercise. Simply by establishing the school-related procedure, which entrusts the inherently nongovernmental subject of religion to a majoritarian vote, a con-stitutional violation has occurred.”

Prayer at School Board Meetings

In Coles ex rel. Coles v. Cleveland Bd. of Educ., 171 F.3d 369 (6th Cir. 1999), a former student and teacher filed action against the Cleveland Board of Education and superintendent, alleging that the board’s practice of opening meetings with a prayer or moment of silence was unconstitutional. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the board’s practice of opening its meetings with a prayer violated the Establishment Clause, finding “the school board’s practice of opening its meetings with prayer leads to excessive entanglement in religious matters…” Id. at 385.

The Court observed that “[t]he very fact that school board meetings focus solely on school-related matters provides students with an incentive to attend the meetings that is lacking in other settings. The board makes policy on a wide range of issues directly affecting a student’s life in school. Be it dress codes, locker searches, changes in the curriculum, or funding for extracurricular activities, school board meetings are the arena in which all issues directly relevant to students are discussed and decided. The fact that the board regularly presents honors and awards to students at its meetings only provides added enticements for students to attend school board meetings. Further-

more, students who wish to challenge their suspension or expulsion from school are required by statute to air their grievances at a school board meeting. For such students, attendance at a board meeting is not a matter of choice, but a matter of necessity.” Id. at 381-2.

Ultimately, the court held that “…the policy of the Cleveland School Board is so inextricably intertwined with the public schools that it must be evaluated on the same basis as the schools themselves.” Id. at 383. Under this analysis the court found that the practice of beginning school board meetings with a prayer was unconstitutional.

Prayer at Graduation

Graduation prayers violate the principle of separation of church and state. In 1992, the Supreme Court held in Lee v. Weisman, 505 U. S. 577 (1992), that prayer – even nonsectarian or nonproselytizing prayer – at public school graduation ceremonies violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Court held that the inclu-sion of prayers as part of a school-sponsored and school-supervised ceremony contravenes the Establishment Clause. The decision was based on the inevitably coercive effect on students and because such religious activities convey a message of government endorsement of religion.

In Lee, the Supreme Court focused on the subtle pressures that accompany any religious exercise conducted as part of a school-sponsored event. The Court held that even though a school district does not require students to attend graduation in order to receive their diplomas, the students’ attendance and participation in graduation exer-cises is “in a fair and real sense obligatory.” Id. at 586.

As the Court observed: “Everyone knows that in our society and in our culture high school graduation is one of life’s most significant occasions…. Attendance may not be required by official decree, yet it is apparent that a stu-dent is not free to absent herself from the graduation exercise in any real sense of the term “voluntary,” for ab-sence would require forfeiture of those intangible benefits which have motivated the student through youth and all her high school years.” Id. at 595.

Because attendance at high school graduation ceremonies is in effect obligatory – and because the ceremonies themselves are an adjunct to, and, in a real sense, the culmination of the public school curriculum – the inclusion of a religious program in graduation ceremonies violates the Establishment Clause.

As the Court stated in Lee: “The prayer exercises in this case are especially improper because the State has in every practical sense compelled attendance and participation in an explicit religious exercise at an event of singu-lar importance to every student, one the objecting student had no real alternative to avoid.” Id. at 598.

Baccalaureate Services

The absence of prayer from a public school’s official graduation ceremony does not prohibit students from affirming their religious beliefs before or after the ceremony. Nothing in Lee or Santa Fe, for example, would prevent or pro-hibit like-minded students from organizing a privately-sponsored baccalaureate service – provided that it was held separately from the school’s graduation program, was entirely voluntary, and was neither sponsored nor super-vised by school officials.

Indeed, the Court went out of its way in Santa Fe to make clear that “nothing in the Constitution as interpreted by this Court prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the school day. But the religious liberty protected by the Constitution is abridged when the State affirmatively sponsors the particular religious practice of prayer.” Contrary to protests voiced by those who desire to use the public schools as a forum for promoting their particular religious beliefs, the Supreme Court’s holdings in Lee and Santa Fe are not anti-religious and do not interfere with the rights of students, guaranteed by the Free Exercise Clause, to worship and pray according to the dictates of their own consciences.

Moment of Silence

The quiet time for reflection must neither be intended to promote religious values and conduct nor be used to intro-duce group prayer into public schools. In 1985, the Supreme Court held that a school district may not require that students observe a moment of silence at the beginning of the school day when the purpose of such a requirement is that students use the time for prayer. Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 40 (1985).

As long as 1) the moment of silence is free from any direction by school officials, 2) there is no state coercion or element of preference during the moment of silence for a particular religion or for religion in general, and 3) stu-dents are left to meditate, reflect or pray silently as they see fit, the moment of silence does not violate the Estab-lishment Clause. In summary, if the school tells students they may use the moment of silence as they wish, the activity does not violate the Constitution.

The fundamental principle underlying these decisions is that the Constitution commands that public schools may not take sides in matters of religion, and may not endorse a particular religious perspective or any religion at all. The First Amendment prohibits government policies and practices “respecting an establishment of religion, or pro-hibiting the free exercise thereof.” Both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause operate to protect the religious liberty and freedom of conscience of all Americans.

“See You at the Pole”

Organized events such as “See You at the Pole” are permissible under certain conditions. “See You at the Pole” involves prayer meetings held before the start of the school day at a pre-arranged site on school grounds. Similar to guidelines outlined in the Equal Access Act, outside persons may not direct, conduct, control or regularly attend the activities of such student groups. Additionally, schools may not circumvent the ban against school-sponsored prayer by initiating such events and delegating the responsibilities to students, or by obtaining “permission” from parents. Furthermore, schools may not advertise or promote such events within the school either verbally or in writ-ing. Within this framework schools prevent the impression of endorsement, equally respecting the practices of stu-dents of all religions.

Free Exercise of Religion

The ACLU has always defended students’ right to pray individually and voluntarily in school as long as they do not disrupt regular school activities. For example, students may be allowed to read their Bibles on the school bus or pray together before lunch; however, they may not force other students to read along or listen. We also have de-fended the Free Exercise rights of students of many faiths when government officials have interfered with their reli-gious freedom. To cite just a few examples, the ACLU has defended: a high school basketball player in Alabama kicked off the team because he missed Sunday practice in order to attend church; an eighth grader in California barred from wearing a shirt that read “Real Women Love Jesus;” and a Vermont family who refused to provide their child’s Social Security Number to school authorities because of their fundamentalist Christian beliefs.


In conclusion, the state may neither prefer nor prohibit religious exercise but rather must remain neutral. “School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible because it sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are non-adherents ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an ac-companying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.’” Santa Fe [citing Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S., at 688 (1984) (O’Connor, J., concurring).]

“The First Amendment’s Religion Clauses mean that religious beliefs and religious expression are too precious to be either proscribed or prescribed by the State. The design of the Constitution is that preservation and transmis-sion of religious beliefs and worship is a responsibility and a choice committed to the private sphere, which itself is promised freedom to pursue that mission.” Coles ex rel. Coles v. Cleveland Bd. of Educ., 171 F.3d 369 (6th Cir. 1999)

Rev. 09/11

For more information, please visit

American flag missing at Longmont Justice Center

by Becky Everitt

I recently attended an orginizational meeting at the Longmont Justice Center. We had to bring our own American flag. I was perturbed by the fact that the public building did not fly our flag anywhere on the premises. After inquiring why this is, I was informed that the officials (I wonder who) do not want to offend anyone. Well, I’m an American and I am deeply offended. What in the world is going on here in our beautiful city that we are not even allowed to flag Old Glory in our supposedly “Justice” building. Something desperately needs to be changed in this country or we may well be flying the Chinese flag.

Western Tradition Partnership and ExxonMobil in Montana

From The Colorado Independent:

Anti-green group with Colorado ties rushes to defend ExxonMobil in Montana oil spill

Republican who filed complaint against WTP sees ranch covered in oil

By David O. Williams | 07.19.11 | 8:43 am

A moderate Montana Republican who says her bid for state lawmaker last year was torpedoed by the illegal campaign tactics of an anti-green, pro-drilling political group registered in Colorado has seen her ranch on the Yellowstone River near Laurel inundated with ExxonMobil oil.

Debra Bonogofsky

Debra Bonogofsky filed an official complaint with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices against a Colorado 501(c)4 called Western Tradition Partnership, alleging the group failed to properly register in Montana or post “paid for” notification on its attack mailers.

The executive director of the group, now called American Tradition Partnership (ATP), earlier this month flew to the site of ExxonMobil’s Yellowstone River pipeline spill to praise the cleanup response by the oil and gas giant and to laud the efforts of state Rep. Dan Kennedy, the Laurel Republican who beat out Bonogofsky in last year’s primary.

read the rest at The Colorado Independent


GOP bills don’t help businesses — DEM bills do

Colorado State Senator Lois Tochtrop

GOP ‘pro-business’ bills would not really have helped business
On June 26, the Times-Call ran a story titled “GOP: No progress with biz regs,” which suggested Democrats stopped several bills Republicans claimed would “help business.” This story came just days after the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce recognized Democrats for their pro-business efforts.

The story failed to mention that these extreme Republican bills wouldn’t have “helped business.” They would have helped a few lobbyists while threatening Colorado’s state budget.

One example was a bill by Republican Sen. Mike Kopp that would have crippled the bipartisan Joint Budget Committee, a hard-working group of legislators, three Republicans and three Democrats, whose mission is to balance the budget with shrinking revenues, meet the need to educate our kids, comply with unfunded federal mandates and run our law enforcement, judiciary and prison systems.

This uninformed bill by Sen. Kopp would have replaced the Joint Budget Committee with a non-elected (read: unaccountable) group from the business community. The reason this poorly reasoned, poorly written legislation didn’t survive is because it was fatally flawed.

The article also claimed a bill by Republican Sen. Shawn Mitchell was “pro-business.” The truth is Sen. Mitchell took Kopp’s feeble effort and drove it to the absurd. Mitchell’s legislation would have given a small group of business people the ability to veto legislation. This scheme makes a mockery of representative government, a fact that was lost on Mitchell.

The Denver Metro Chamber got it right when it praised several pieces of Democratic business-friendly legislation from the 2011 session. We passed bills to lessen regulation on business, but we killed extreme political grandstanding efforts in favor of real solutions to help business and put people back to work.


Business, Labor, Technology Committee

When Food Bank Volunteers Are Reduced to Tears

Give us this day our daily bread - if you 'qualify'

From Say It Ain’t So Already:

I worked at the food bank this morning. A steady stream of clients came through while I went to the local grocery store to get some basics like cereal (I was told not to spend more than 99¢ a box) and some ramen soup (couldn’t spend more than 17¢ each) and some baby food, as long as the jars were under 50¢.

Even food banks are broke.

At the end of my shift, as the afternoon volunteers were coming in, I noticed one, I’ll call her Diane, was hauling in bags and bags of food she purchased with her own money. Almost all of us bring in three or four or six items on the day we volunteer but after we finished weighing her haul, it totaled 269 lbs.

I asked why she brought in so much and she started tearing up. She said she had been in the day before, working as an intake counselor instead of as a “walker” (what we call the people who walk through the food bank with clients). She said she got so depressed because of the terrible situation most of the people she interviewed were in. Over the course of a year one woman had gone from living in an apartment to living in a motel. She was turned away because we only give food to people who have the capacity to prepare it and she didn’t have kitchen facilities. Another client, a man in his mid-50′s, had been living in an apartment but as of yesterday he was living in his car. Diane had to turn him away too. She sent him to the Homeless Shelter.

Diane said the only way “we are going to have any fun around here today” is if there is something other than the usual soup, chili and canned green beans on the shelves. So she brought in cookies and bottles of shampoo and pounds and pounds of ground beef and chicken nuggets and eggs and cheese.

Every city council member, every state rep, every member of congress, every president and every presidential candidate would be required to spend a week at our/a food bank, goddammit.

I couldn’t agree with you more. -frl

Tea Party is slow death for GOP

That 'tea' might be laced with fatal FAIL

Tea Party is Slowly Killing Republicans
by: Colorado Pols
Thu Jun 23, 2011 at 12:25:00 PM MDT

We’ve written several times in this space that the Tea Party movement of 2010 may end up irreparably damaging the Republican Party. As a new poll out of Florida indicates, the damage is already being done. From The Miami Herald:

Beware, Florida Republicans: The tea party movement that swept you into office in 2010 could cost you the next election.That’s the takeaway message from Republican pollster and consultant Alex Patton, who conducted a recent survey showing that, by a 2:1 ratio, registered Florida voters said the tea party movement did not represent their views.

The sentiment against the tea party is significantly higher among self-described independent voters, who swing elections in Florida and who looked unfavorably on the tea party by 3-to-1, the poll showed. Only Republican voters favored the tea party movement, with 68 percent in support and less than 20 percent opposed.

Read the rest at ColoradoPols

Bachmann’s no joke

President Bachmann? Now THAT'S scary.

By Matt Taibbi
June 22, 2011 8:00 AM ET
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and, as you consider the career and future presidential prospects of an incredible American phenomenon named Michele Bachmann, do one more thing. Don’t laugh.

It may be the hardest thing you ever do, for Michele Bachmann is almost certainly the funniest thing that has ever happened to American presidential politics. Fans of obscure 1970s television may remember a short-lived children’s show called Far Out Space Nuts, in which a pair of dimwitted NASA repairmen, one of whom is played by Bob (Gilligan) Denver, accidentally send themselves into space by pressing “launch” instead of “lunch” inside a capsule they were fixing at Cape Canaveral. This plot device roughly approximates the political and cultural mechanism that is sending Michele Bachmann hurtling in the direction of the Oval Office.

Read the rest at

An Open Letter to Congressman Cory Gardner from Councilman Sean McCoy

Dear Congressman Cory Gardner,

Longmont City Councilman Sean McCoy

I am the Longmont City Council Member representing Ward 3. As the local elected official “on the ground,” I must tell you that I am very concerned and extremely disappointed with your recent voting record.

You framed your campaign and platform around job creation and fixing the economy for all economic households in your district and throughout the country. However, you have consistently wasted time, “One-upping,” your fellow freshmen congress members, over who can cut more from the budget and in the process hurt the most needy amongst our shared constituents.

Please remember your votes have a lasting effect on our community and its people.

Specifically, what do your following “Affirmative” votes have to do with job creation?
1. Prohibiting use of federal funds for Planned Parenthood,
2. Prohibiting Federal Funding of National Public Radio, and
3. Abolishing Federal Financing of Presidential Election Campaigns.

Why have you failed to work on jobs and opportunities for the communities that you represent?

Your votes appear to be promoting a social agenda and are unconnected to the goals of economic recovery. These are not the issues of the majority of our constituents. We (my constituents and I) expect you to stop playing political games with their lives and livelihoods as well as long-established community supported programs.

Your votes to terminate the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and reduce funding the Economic Development Initiative are particularly egregious and detrimental to the City of Longmont’s efforts to provide needed services and maintain employment in our community.

In short: “Grow up.” Place the genuine needs of our constituents ahead of ideologies that drive the small and radical segments of our district, ward and nation. Holding the government hostage by avoiding compromise is wrong.

I will remind you that on a global scale, the popular uprising in Egypt wasn’t just instigated because that country had a corrupt leader. Nor was it a case of too much government. The uprising occurred because Egypt had a corrupt leader combined with too little regulation to offset the predatory practices of out-of -control capitalism. In reflection, they had too little government to protect and support the people’s needs.

Pretending to fix the national condition by reducing budgets and breaking down government so it is so ineffective, inefficient and radically smaller isn’t a rational solution for most people. Furthermore, the “Tea Party’s,” irrational mantra of the untested economic theory of an unconditional “Free Market System,” doesn’t compute to rational thinkers in this world’s most successful societies where they know emphatically and correctly, that you don’t balance budgets on the backs of their societies’ most vulnerable members while giving overt advantages to the most wealthy of those same societies.

Shame on you, Cory Gardner. Stop being so radically out of touch with the Longmont community’s priorities. I/we expect you to lead with compassion and common sense and not follow the poor examples I see in you so far and in your closely politically aligned colleagues. It is inexcusable for you to be solely responsive to the deep pockets that helped pay to get you elected. Your behavior reflects a disturbingly high level of corruption.

Your votes suggest a larger personality flaw that indicates an inability to understand, empathize and support others by showing compassion to those that are less fortunate in our country.

Finally, I expect – no, I demand – that you to drop your support of these radical “Policy riders,” because they are emphatically not the values of this community. Your efforts to reduce government spending must consider all aspects of the budget, including the Entitlement of the “Military Budget.”

Thus far, your votes and decisions cause nothing but serious harm to the American people. Your actions are far from just or in the best interest of either my Ward 3 constituents or the constituency of the 4th Congressional District


Sean P. McCoy
Longmont City Council Member Ward 3

Government waste imperils environment

As seen in the The Longmont Ledger, March 27, 2011

By Tom Lopez, Longmont

Deriding government subsidies for renewable energy that reduce our dependence on foreign oil, while ignoring the huge subsidies going to the oil industry, which is drowning in profit, makes no sense to any critical thinking person.

How short-sighted can people be to ignore the fact that man-caused carbon-dioxide levels are killing our planet? How many permanent ice sheets melted, dying coral reefs identified, ocean ph levels dropped, low-lying islands drowned and people dying from breathing foul air will it take to convince this talk-show tainted mindset that we have a perilous environmental problem on our hands?

Meanwhile, some make the ludicrous claim that every significant tax cut has resulted in increased government revenues. No one has ever supplied quantifiable evidence to support that claim. It is true, however, that any tax cut reduces government revenue by that exact amount so before anyone claims increased government revenue, he must first cover the revenue lost from the tax cuts.

Compare the $1.5 trillion cost of George W. Bush’s war in Iraq and his half-trillion dollar prescription-drug giveaway, plus the hundreds of billions annually to tax cuts for the well-off and the more than $2 trillion Wall Street meltdown to the cost of increased unemployment insurance for the out-of-work, food stamps for the hungry, the $200 billion program for renewable energy and health insurance for all that actually saves money and you will clearly see where the real government waste exists.