Features

Teaching peace: Muzzling America’s gun culture

A traveling salesman was lost on a lonely country road and stopped to ask a farmer for directions. The farmer thought a few minutes and finally replied, “You can’t get there from here.”

That conclusion matches how I feel about the current argument over the right to bear arms. Will gun control legislation reduce gun violence? Maybe. Maybe not. The situation is a lot like that farmer’s horses already out of the barn before the door is shut. There are enough guns circulating to give everyone, toddlers and above, at least one. And arguments against gun control laws whittle down proposed legislation using barn-door logic. It’s too late, why try?

Let’s think bigger than magazine capacity and assault weapon necessity. The “gun lobby” is about sales not rights. Just because the Second Amendment is in the Constitution doesn’t mean it is necessary. It is not. The Constitution has been changed 27 times; the Founding Fathers didn’t foresee everything that would require amendment centuries down the road. Excellent arguments have been presented on this opinion page documenting the fact that in 1791 a citizen had to bring his own gun to a militia call-up; one was not provided.

Gun guns and more gunsToday, the Second Amendment is superfluous. Assertions that citizens must be ready to overthrow tyrannical government are insulting to city and state law enforcement, the National Guard, and five branches of the Defense Department. Lost causes like that of rebel states in the Civil War are made by those who despise government in any form, especially the promise in the preamble to the Constitution to provide for a more perfect union. The “militias” of today hide behind stockades out in the woods hoping to evade taxes.

Bigger thinking today requires asking different questions. For example: Why is there a general perception that the NRA has congress by its short hairs? A recent survey shows the NRA’s Victory Fund spent over $11 Million on candidates in the 2012 election, with 0.44 percent supporting winners.

Peace sign - rainbowOr, how about a better question: How do we change our culture of violence? Arguments about gun rights divert our attention for a paradigm shift away from our role as the world’s policeman. Got trouble? Call in the Marines? Need military backup? We’ll build a military base anywhere. And we have. Need to overthrow a tyrant? We’ve got spies for that.

We’re built to fight and we expect to win. Why not? We invest in weapons from pistols to nuclear war heads inventoried by the thousands, enough to obliterate civilization five times over and leave the handful it will take to neutralize minor rogue states.

That farmer wouldn’t puzzle too long before realizing another you-can’t-get-there-from-here conundrum. Our culture is full of violence. Too much of our “entertainment” is based on killing whatever moves. And finally, we talk a lot about mental health, but leave out actual dollars to improve it. Many argue vehemently against a human right to healthcare, a fact staring each of us in the face, while insisting on an archaic right to bear arms and overthrow a tyrant king of the 18th century.

Longmont is a “happy town” because we have been teaching peace since 1996. It can’t be said too many times. The opposite of bearing arms in a culture of violence is community action to steer young offenders to law-abiding lives of peace. We even have a book for that written by Beverly Title called Teaching Peace. It is relevant today and tells the story of our restorative justice program now known as the Longmont Community Justice Partnership (LCJP). And partnership is the key word. Residents like you and me are working now in partnership with our police, our schools, and city government. Longmont is not sitting back waiting for the state of Colorado to act or Congress and the White House to decide magazine size or the necessity of assault weapons.

Here is relevant fact: Each year hundreds of our youths are referred to a community justice circle. They take responsibility and repair any harm done to victims and the community. The success rate is phenomenal. There is a 98% satisfaction rate by all involved in the circle, including community volunteers, offenders, victims, and the police who participate in 85 percent of all circles. This is our teaching peace process. Historically the recidivism, repeat offense, rate is about 7 percent compared to Boulder County’s 50 percent and a national rate much higher at around two-thirds!

Join us, stack arms and learn how to teach peace. Visit www.lcjp.org, or call 303-776-1527.

Bill Ellis is a Longmont Community Justice Partnership volunteer teaching peace.

Silent Spring of Our Generation

His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

I read an editorial in the Denver Post today that lectured the City of Longmont on why they should not bother to protect themselves from a toxic industry.

It occurred to me that opposing fracking may well be the Silent Spring of our generation. Silent Spring, for those who are not familiar with it, was a ground-breaking 1962 book by the naturalist writer Rachel Carson, who was curious about mass bird deaths. Her search led her to the impacts of the widespread use of the toxic pesticide DDT. That awareness led to concern for public health, which led to the book, which led to a movement, which led, eventually, to the banning of DDT.

Al of which was met, of course, by vicious industry attacks, personal slanders, lobbying, and lawsuits and posturing and gnashing of teeth by the people who made money off of making DDT. The attacks and distortions, not incidentally, continue to this day.

By the way, it is worth noting now through the benefit of hindsight, that economic life, Western Civilization, and the agricultural industry did not come to a screeching halt as a result of regulating DDT, as the defenders of the toxic DDT warned ominously back at the time.

The lessons of the book, alas, were not fully learned, though, because we still are confronted by an ever-increasing and ever-more toxic and reckless array of chemicals released into our environment with little scrutiny, regulation, or accountability. One of the latest toxic threats running amok – with regulatory forbearance, government subsidy, and a personal waiver (the so-called Halliburton loophole) from the environmental rules that everyone else has to follow – is fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing as most of us now know is the practice of breaking up rock far underground by injecting millions of gallons of water down every single hole, using a process of high-pressure injection that contaminates the water with thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals.

We are told by industry that it is safe and responsible to do this, to inject all that toxic stuff into the ground. That’s hogwash. What fracking is, is insane. And idiotic. The notion that we can inject billions of gallons of toxic water into the ground, without that water someday, some way coming back to bite us on our collective butts is idiotic. The fact that the contamination occurs thousands of feet deep underground doesn’t make fracking safe; it only makes it deeply idiotic.

We were told fracking is safe by the same breed of lobbyists and executives who told us that cigarette smoking was safe – a lie they repeated over and over in the halls of Congress for years after the time that members of Congress were the only people in the nation who didn’t roll their eyes and groan at the transparency of those lies – and told long after they themselves were aware of their own evidence to the contrary. The track record of harmful industries lying to us, buying our politicians, suppressing evidence of harm, and bullying anyone who dare opposes them is overwhelming. The fact that we still grant the assurances of these self-interested polluters with even a shred of credibility is absurd.

Don’t let their smokescreens and threats cloud the issue though; the key answer is not complicated at all: Fracking is unsafe at any speed.

As the lies and myths and threats and rationalizations for allowing ourselves to be inundated by toxic water washed over me, I realized that Fracking is the DDT of this generation. And we must fight it the same way. With zero tolerance for chemical self-destruction.

So when I read the Denver Post editorial today – in which the Post opposed the Longmont fracking ban – it was painfully clear that the reasoning cited by the Post’s editorial Board was tenuous and specious, following in the footsteps of tenuous and specious rationalizations made in the past to divert public action away from reasonable civic self-defense. Don’t ban fracking they said, because it might be expensive to enforce; because it might get challenged in the courts; and because fracking has not yet caused a crisis within the City’s limits. Emphasis on that qualifier: not yet.

What a wagon-load of horse apples.

In its haste to protect Longmont residents from themselves; however, the Post did not address the most important question: is banning fracking the right thing to do? Let’s answer that question for them now: banning fracking, and banning it now, is the right thing to do. And furthermore, it is within the rights of local jurisdictions to protect themselves from toxic assault, particularly when the State and federal Governments refuse to do so.

The Post apparently prefers that the citizens of Longmont should delay dealing with fracking until after it becomes a crisis. The Post recommends that the City delays dealing with the threat until it is too late: delay until the drilling permits are pulled and the well heads are going up. That’s some lousy advice from the Post.

The Post claims also to be concerned with the inconvenience such a ban might impose on the City. Indeed, giving up smoking cigarettes isn’t easy either. Doing the right thing is not always convenient, particularly in the face of a well-financed and well-connected industry. Doing the right thing is not always convenient, or easy. The oil & gas industry, backed by the Governor and his Attorney General, have made clear their intent – they will fight for their right to tell towns that only the state can decide who can pollute in the local jurisdictions. We already know the state’s answer: anywhere they please, any time they please, and any way they please. And no uppity local jurisdiction shall stand in their way.

So let’s be very clear on what is at stake. The Governor has drawn a line in the sand – if local governments try to control toxic activities within their own boundaries, then the state, in tandem with industry, will muscle in with its full weight and will body-slam the locals without mercy. On this point I do agree with the Post. The state’s intent to enforce its monopoly on regulation is clear, and the industry’s litigious nature is also well-established. We can assume the City will be sued.

I say: bring it on. I say: make the Supreme Court reiterate their position that towns have no right to protect themselves from toxic pollution. I say: make the Supreme Court defend the polluters right to pollute over and over, until eventually the courts finally get the answer right, and fracking finally goes the way of DDT, along with child labor and every other indefensible abomination that was perpetuated on the citizens of this nation until enough people stood up and refused to sit down.

The question before the City of Longmont remains simple: is Longmont ready to do the right thing to protect itself? Is Longmont ready to stand up for itself, and stand up against the State and industry if necessary to do so? Or will the City back down in the face of threats and bullying by the Governor and industry? Not to mention some lecturing from the Denver Post.

I hope the City is ready to see this through. I hope the City is ready to tear a brick from the wall built around fracking.

I do agree with the Post on another point, banning fracking is effectively the same as banning drilling – this is because the vast majority of drilling being done uses fracking. However, the conclusion the Post draws from this is that we must therefore yield to fracking. Nonsense. On the contrary, it is industry that must stop fracking, not the citizens that must roll over and accept it. Industry must find a way to extract oil & gas without injecting millions of gallons of toxic water into the ground for every well, or they must stop drilling. We can be certain of one thing; industry will keep fracking until we make them stop. They will keep injecting toxins into the water until we make them change their techniques. In the meantime, every new well fracked is another well injected with millions of gallons of toxic contaminated water.

I believe in the genius of capitalism and the innovativeness of motivated entrepreneurs – which is precisely why we should stop shielding the oil & gas industry from the consequences of their toxic activities and force them to clean up their act, or get out of the business and make way for people who can move us forward without setting us back. This same belief is why I support incentives and rewards for entrepreneurs who develop truly clean and sustainable ways to power this country, and better yet, who pursue ways to use less energy and to be more efficient with the energy we do use.

The Denver Post blew a lot of smoke into a simple question, in the hopes perhaps of obscuring the simple truths from our vision: Fracking is a massively toxic industrial process, and towns have every right to protect themselves from it.

“Tens”, “Hundreds”, how far will they go?

Snake oil salesmen haven’t changed one bit.

When desperation rises, strange things happen. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump from the rational to the irrational. And those who are part of the “let’s frack the heck” out of Longmont team are doing a whole lot a-hoppin’ and a-skippin’ and a-jumpin’ these days.

Not satisfied with the full-page ads telling the gullible that if Ballot Measure 300 passes, it will cost Longmont “tens of millions of dollars,” the frackers on Longmont City Council have upped the ante to “hundreds of millions.” Dang, if the campaign season lasts much longer the hyperbole will get to the billions of dollars.

I laughed when it was “tens.” I rolled on the floor laughing when it became “hundreds.” Lord knows what I’ll do when they go higher. It’s probably best that I stay away from a stairwell if that happens. I wouldn’t want to bruise myself by falling down laughing.

Seriously, folks, these guys are grasping at anything to try to get you to vote against your own health and safety and that of your family and friends. They’ve already plowed over a half-million dollars against you and we’re still counting. What are they so afraid of? If oil and gas is spending so much money to try to defeat 300, then they must believe that supporters of Question 300 are not only correct about “health, safety and well-being,” but that oil and gas will lose money and nobody will have to pay them. Why would they spend all this dough if they believed that one way or the other they would make their profits?

Vote “yes” on 300 to ban fracking and its waste in Longmont. I know I will!

Response to Denver Post’s interference in Longmont

The following is an expanded version of the response to Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll’s misrepresentation of Question 300, which prohibits hydraulic fracking and its waste products within Longmont city limits.

Colorado constitution

The Colorado Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to health, safety and wellbeing.

Recently Vincent Carroll wrote a column about the citizen-driven ballot measure, Question 300 that bans hydraulic fracking within the city limits of Longmont.  Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont agrees with one comment by Mr. Carroll:  Yes, this is a “bellwether vote in Longmont.”  However, there is little else about Carroll’s characterization of our effort upon which we can agree.

The citizens of Longmont didn’t choose to be a leader in the effort to assert local control over health, safety and wellbeing.  That role was thrust upon us by an industry that has no interest in our community except to extract its last dime of profits at our community’s expense.

When representative government is inadequate or a failure, the Colorado Constitution not only provides a remedy, but also provides a guarantee of citizen health, safety and welfare.

The citizens of Longmont are under attack not only from the oil and gas industry, but from our own governor.  Governor Hickenlooper is already suing us over regulations that are considerably watered down from what most in the Longmont community were expecting.  He’s also promised to sue us again if Question 300 passes.  Hickenlooper should be ashamed of himself.  But he isn’t.  He would rather serve as the spokesperson for oil and gas than represent his constituents.  He’d rather make commercials for oil and gas, and pretend to drink fracking fluid that is not even being used by the industry.

Our Longmont is a group of Longmont parents, business owners, retirees, teachers, medical providers, people from all walks of life and all socio-economic demographics.  We are working to protect what we hold dear: our families, our health, our quality of life, our town.  In fact, many of us did not even know what fracking was when, one year ago, it was announced that an oil and gas company was going to frack only a stone’s throw from our homes, our children’s school and our reservoir in Longmont.

Our research revealed that scientific evidence points to the harms that fracking posed to our children, our health and our property.  Months of scientific testimony and public input was presented to our city council with deep and heartfelt pleas to protect us from the myriad dangers of fracking: the cacophonous noise, property damage, threats to our children’s health and safety, earthquakes, air pollution, and the threats to surface and groundwater from well-documented evidence from the state’s own Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Eventually, we were faced with a choice:  abdicate our Constitutional rights to protect our family’s health, safety and welfare or work to keep Longmont a great place to live for our families today and for our children’s and grandchildren’s future families.  We chose the latter.

Over 100 volunteers worked for six weeks in 100 degree temperatures to collect 8,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.  The measure will give Longmont residents the right to vote on whether they want fracking 350 feet from their homes, schools and reservoir or to prohibit this method of oil and gas extraction outright.

We have now learned that the oil and gas industry has spent over $330,000 and  has contributed over a half-a-million dollars to defeat this measure.  They have outspent our citizen-led effort to protect our homes, safety and property 30 times over.

This money has come from 28 contributors, including Halliburton, Chevron, Encana.  Many of these oil and gas corporations aren’t even based in Colorado, but instead, hail from Texas, Oklahoma and Florida.  Not one – not one Longmont resident has contributed to the opposition’s campaign.

Why are out-of-state oil and gas companies spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to strip parents, small-business owners, retirees and teachers in Longmont of their constitutional rights?  Why does the oil and gas industry feel the need to buy an election so that they can have free reign to put dangerous, industrial activity next to our homes and our children’s schools, or anywhere else their bank accounts desire?

While we wait for honest answers to these questions (and honesty is not a trademark of the oil and gas industry), we will continue what we have always done: being neighbors, parents and taxpayers in Longmont.  And we will not stop working every day to protect our loved ones from hydraulic fracking.

Rape

There’s no joy in rape for the victim.

Iʼm continually amazed by the number of women who, in voting the Republican ticket have potentially tossed away their rights as the female of the species and casually handed them over to a bunch of arrogant, self-righteous and (apparently) intellectually challenged males. I also would not be surprised how many of these same women will look in the mirror one day and realize the staggering mistake they have made in their voting selection.

I wonder how many of these women voters will be faced with an unwanted pregnancy. Not theirs – their daughterʼs. How many will face the agony of holding a child who has been raped and with a growing fetus, now face the abhorrence of future offspring by an unknown rapist or perhaps a known relative? Will there be joy in that embrace?

The Romney/Ryan ticket has of late softened its absolutist position on the abortion of rape and incest victims, but beneath the veneer of concern for the victim lies the absolute probability that a Romney administration will have the opportunity to appoint at least two supreme court justices. With those appointments, the nation can say goodbye to Roe v Wade. Mission accomplished and itʼs; “Hey – we didnʼt do it”. But of course they did; thatʼs politics for you.

No one knows just how far the court might go. No abortion, regardless of cause or even the health of the mother? Who knows? A more compassionate view protecting the life of the mother but otherwise prohibiting the procedure regardless the raper? Perhaps. Nice to realize that your daughter bears the child of good olʼ Uncle Joe or brother Billy or- well, you really donʼt want to go there, do you? At what point does anger spring into action?

A female is raped and her life is changed forever- a memory she will carry to her grave and a pregnancy adds to the agony. I wonder if R&R have spent much time thinking about what goes through a victimʼs mind once sheʼs dismissed from the hospital with her baby cooing as she make their way home. Very little I suspect.

The births of R&R’s lovely children were intended and filled with joy. What about the others- the victims, the innocents, the scarred? Your child is in your arms. She may be 11 or 16 or 26. She is in emotional and physical pain. If very young she may have no understanding of what has just occurred. As you comfort her, do you think of what to tell her a few months along; that she is pregnant and will soon be a mother- and nothing legally can be done to change that fact? Or is it impossible for you to even imagine such an event in your family? Unimaginable! No way – not in my family! Well, if your luck holds, that may be a fact.

But what if and what about that mother down the street clutching her raped and pregnant daughter? I wonder who she voted for and exactly why some ignorant male politician is making decisions for her. Then again, – it may be you, alone and with no arms to hold you.

And his eyes- are they as filled with tears as yours or your daughterʼs? Not likely- theirs will burn with zeal and the certainty of whatʼs good for you – and them. Mostly them at the polling booth.

Invigorated Understanding

WATER WAVE

Valuing Water for Our Life

“Community Action and Collective Networking for Water”

Water is a Universal Issue.  Water is a Local Issue.

Water is a Human Issue. Water is an Earth Issue.

Water Connects Everything. Water is the Medium for all Life.

Water is Most Who We Are.

Water Is Vanishing At An Alarming Rate…..

What Do You NOT Know About The Causes?

Most Important, What Can You Do To Help?

Come and find out the answer to these questions through a multi-media presentation by Karen Ann.

Water Wave Project is devoted to bringing an Invigorated Understanding to the rapidly increasing scarcity and contamination of fresh water, while highlighting a call for new solutions and collective action.

Karen Ann worked as a Professional in Communications, Media, National and Independent Public Radio, and Audio-Visual Productions. Currently she devotes her skills to raising awareness and spurring actions for the protection, safety and respect of our Fresh Water Resources.

Date: Thursday November 1, 2012

Where: Longmont Public Library, 409 4th Ave, Longmont 80501

Time: 6pm arrival; showing starts at 6:30pm-8:30pm

Birtherism is bull

From Lowering the Bar – Legal humor. Seriously.

UPDATE: Birthers’ Record Is Worse Than I Thought

by Kevin Underhill

Last week I mentioned that the lawsuit (if you can call it that) filed against me, the President of the United States, and a number of other dignitaries by birther/dentist/lawyer Dr. Orly Taitz had been dismissed. I also mentioned having seen a chart purporting to list every court ruling in the many cases that have challenged Obama’s claim to be a “natural born citizen,” and based on that I suggested that Taitz’s record in court on these cases was 0-158. I heard from the person who compiles that chart, who kindly gave me permission to link to it, and after reviewing it again I need to make a couple of corrections.

First, it may not be correct to ascribe all these losses to Orly Taitz. Certainly there are other people involved in filing these things, including Keith Judd, who I mentioned here in a slightly different context, although a context that also involved him being in prison, and also Philip Berg, who I mentioned here. None of these people have ever won a single victory in their “birther” lawsuits, nor has anyone else, and it’s also entirely possible that Taitz is involved in some or all of these other cases behind the scenes. But to be strictly accurate, while Taitz is zero-and-something, it may not be zero-and-158.

Second, the overall record is significantly worse than I thought, according to the “Birther Scorecard.”

This chart, which is currently 70 pages long and lists 175 cases, includes short summaries and also links to almost all the cited orders, where they are available online. It’s an impressive piece of work, created by Tesibria at What’s Your Evidence? According to the Scorecard (last updated October 18), of the 175 cases she thinks can be fairly classified as “birther” cases, birthers have lost 166 and the remaining nine are still pending.

If you add up all the individual rulings, including those in appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court, the birther’s arguments have been rejected (or appeals denied) at least 258 times.

As a bonus for me personally, I think I’ve also gotten at least one new entry for the Comical Case Names page from this, because one of these people apparently insists on filing cases as “Annamarie Last Name Uncertain.” Not “Annamarie Doe” or something like that—as this court noted, “In her pleadings, Plaintiff indicates that her first name is Annamarie and that her last name is uncertain.” But the captions actually read Annamarie Last Name Uncertain vs. [Whoever]. Nicely done, Ms. LNU.

In general I support the rights of the uncertain, but nobody seems able to even figure out what this person wants.


Kevin Underhill

Kevin Underhill

(excerpted from “About the Author” at Lowering the Bar)

Kevin Underhill is a partner in the San Francisco office of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, and to the surprise of many, himself included, has been with the firm for over 17 years.  He was a summer associate in 1992 and began his career in the firm’s Kansas City office in 1993.

Kevin’s essay series, “If Great Literary Works Had Been Written by Lawyers,” was published in The Green Bag law journal, and was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal and on National Public Radio, among other places. Kevin has also occasionally been heard on NPR himself, has been blogging and otherwise writing for years, and started this blog, “Lowering the Bar,” in 2006 or thereabouts. He has given presentations on a variety of topics, but all drawing from the stories he posts here, for law firms and legal departments across the country.

Behind-the-scenes story of oil and gas in Longmont

Who's behind all the oil and gas influence? Western/American Tradition Partners

Who’s behind all the oil and gas influence? Western/American Tradition Partners

Once upon a time not too long ago, our terrific city was growing and evolving. Not in the usual sense of the words, but in forming a fresh identity that would lead us forwards in this new century. That is the best, most meaningful definition of “home rule,” albeit not the legal one.

And then along came the oil and gas industry. The behind-the-scenes story began in 2009 when Longmont first lost control of its elections to outside interests with big money to spend. An organization known then as Western Tradition Partnership, now American Tradition Partnership, slipped into Longmont elections more or less under the radar. It fully funded a political committee who attacked candidates that it perceived as being unreceptive to their intended future agenda.

WTP/ATP is an IRS 501c4. It doesn’t have to reveal its donors. But its mission makes it clear just who those donors are. ATP is funded by extraction industries and backers who support that agenda. What do I mean by “extraction industries”? In a nutshell – mineral extraction. And for the purposes of Longmont, that means oil and gas. And that means fracking.

WTP (ATP) funded a slate of candidates to redirect the vision for Longmont. Their motive, vague and blurred at the time, was to pave the way for oil and gas drilling by means of hydraulic fracturing inside Longmont; and in doing so, to transform our fair city into something we would not recognize or want.

Bryan Baum, a former mayor now serving as a proxy for the oil and gas industry, made his motives clear in early 2010 when he stated that he wanted the city to get into the oil and gas business by exploiting its own mineral rights. I watched for council agenda items on minerals. They did not appear. But they WERE there – hidden from view, without the knowledge or consent of the Longmont public, but as part of an ATP-sponsored and council majority endorsed trajectory to invite the oil and gas industry to bully its way into Longmont, leaving Longmont citizens and the city to pick up after them.

The oil and gas industry’s intention to drill in Longmont came out of hiding in an ATP election survey in October 2011. And with that, “all hell broke loose.” It was staff’s intent to bring a TOP Operating conditional use permit before the Planning and Zoning Commission in November 2011. That, as they say, would have been that. Longmont would have been fracked and we wouldn’t have known what hit us.

As the people of Longmont became aware of what was in store for their hometown, over and over they said, “Oh, no you don’t. This is OUR Longmont and we get to say whether or not we get fracked.”

Over 8200 people signed the petition sponsored by Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont to place Question 300 that prohibits hydraulic fracking and fracking waste disposal inside Longmont city limits on our ballot. Now there are those with big, big industry money behind them who are trying to silence those voices and hand over the keys to this great town to the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas companies and their trade associations (28) from all over the country and even Canada have contributed nearly a half million dollars to defeat the will of the people of Longmont. How high will that total go? One million dollars? More?

You’ve seen their eight full-page ads with seven mayors pretending to care about the health and safety of Longmont, all the while shilling for the industry who would pollute our air and water and threaten our property values by using false and deceptive quotes from politicians they’ve never supported (and likely never will) to manipulate Longmont voters. They’ve spent or accrued almost $338,000, including television ads and eight mailers. They’re determined to stomp Longmont into submission.

In 2009 and 2011 another industry spent huge sums of money (over $600,000) to make Longmont believe that they cared about us. Longmont voters saw through that scheme and sent them packing.

Pay no attention to the “wizards” on this smokescreen. Tell the oil and gas industry and their local puppets, former or current, that you want them to go away and stay away. This is our Longmont that they are trying to destroy and we won’t allow that. Constitutional and moral rights are on our side.

Vote Yes on 300 to stop them from fracking Longmont.

Support Jon Singer

Dear Friends,

Photo by M. Douglas Wray. Free to use if attributed "Photo by FreeRangeLongmont.com"

Jon Singer

The Boulder Daily Camera has endorsed Jonathan Singer’s Republican opponent.

They called her a “dynamic candidate and independent thinker” even though she has been using the same dirty tactics other right-wingers have been using. She has sent at least two slick mailers Photo-Shopping his face then calling him a “two-faced politician” and “untrustworthy.”  One of her mailers claims he voted against a small business bill when he voted “yes” to send it to the Governor’s Desk for signature on final reading.

Because of Jonathan’s pro-environment / pro-family record at the capitol, numerous groups have come out to support him.  He is the only candidate in the race that has been endorsed by the non-partisan Sierra Club, Colorado Conservation Voters, St. Vrain Valley Education Association (teachers), Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, NARAL Pro-choice Colorado and One Colorado (pro-civil unions), among many others.

Jonathan has served as an effective and dedicated representative and should be reelected.

Please support him against this unprincipled Republican challenge.

Thanks,

Dwight High

Local church forges ahead with LGBTQ marriage ceremonies

Boulder, Colorado – In spite of the rejection of revised policies regarding inclusion of LGBTQ individuals voted on last week by the international gathering of United Methodists in Tampa, Florida, a local congregation is vowing to move forward on its own path of inclusion and social justice.

 First United Methodist Church of Boulder is a welcoming faith community dedicated to “honoring the sacred worth of every human being in a way that creates and sustains a Beloved Community.”   Both the appointed pastors and the lay members of the congregation affirm that they are among the people following the path of Jesus and of Methodist founder John Wesley by welcoming everyone into their midst, stating that they are enriched, as individuals and as a community, when diversity is honored, welcomed and celebrated.

“It’s heart-breaking what happened – or more accurately, didn’t happen – in Tampa this week,” senior pastor Dr. Patrick Bruns stated following several votes which rejected efforts to open up institutional church policies to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in full acceptance and participation in the church.  “But I am reassuring our congregation and the Boulder community that those votes were far from the final word.  Our commitment to following Jesus’ Path has been called out even stronger and we plan even more energetically to pursue bold action, non-violent resistance, and courageous commitment to love, justice and peacemaking.”

Rev. Bruns made news recently by declaring that he and the other pastors at First United Methodist Church of Boulder were prepared to offer church ceremonies for committed and consenting adult life partners, regardless of their gender.  Referring to a broadly supported “Fuller Marriage Ministry” that offers ceremonies and holy unions for same-sex couples, the pastors and congregation recently notified their local Bishop of their intention to move forward in this ministry regardless of church policies to the contrary.

“It has been a unifying and energizing experience in our congregation to have leaders who are so committed to social justice and inclusivity,” noted Becca Tice, chairperson of the Affirming and Welcoming Committee which promotes the full inclusion of the LGBTQ community within the church.  “We won’t pretend that this week’s votes weren’t enormously disappointing but we don’t intend to be defined, defeated or deterred by those votes.”

United Methodists from around the globe gather every four years to consider changes to their Book of Discipline which serves as both “Constitution” and more specific, practical guidebook for how the church is to be run.  Policies detrimental and discriminatory to lesbian and gay individuals have been included in the Book of Discipline since the early 1970s but the actual implementation of policies, in practice, has varied from state to state and country to country.

Closer to home, United Methodists in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming (known as the Rocky Mountain Conference) will gather for their annual conference in Denver about six weeks from now.  Decisions made by the international conference likely will be fodder for both formal and informal discussion at that conference.  Many local individuals already are contemplating actions to express their grave disappointment and disapproval of the votes by the international body and considering ways to bring about future changes.

“We honor and respect the tremendous good work which the United Methodist Church has accomplished in so many ways since its beginning in the 18th century,” said Justin Livingston, Chair of Church Council. “We believe our world needs more instruments of God’s love, grace, and justice, not fewer, and that’s why we will continue to embrace everyone as welcomed participants in God’s family as we experience it at First United Methodist Church of Boulder.”

O & G will hurt Longmont economic development

Our former leaders, and some current ones, would have us think passage of Question 300 would somehow discourage business from coming here. On the contrary, every local “small” businessperson to whom I’ve spoken about fracking is dead set against it in the City. I am not at liberty to divulge any names, but elected or once elected officials need to think again. If anything were THAT rosy, I need to show them this land in Florida. It’s only wet part of the year, see. And if you trust the governor to rewrite the COGCC rule book after the coming election (up or down), then you’ve just got to look at this bridge I have to sell.

Capitulation to elevated petroleum development may say that Longmont has admitted defeat on the economic development front. While that would not surprise in the current macroeconomic environment, grabbing for any tree in the face of a tsunami isn’t always the best tactic. You could get hit by a boat.

Everything has a cost. Why don’t these “leaders” tell us what those might be? Of course, only the potential benefits get the ink. At least our former city manager has the sense and courage to remind us there could be a downside. And he should know. For many years he watched as local elected “leaders” dreamed schemes that he would somehow have to implement. And that isn’t always easy.

Blind promotion of even a “tested” technology is plainly unwise. It would be advisable to take out some insurance, but after the state’s response to the Lower North Fork wildfire this year (where a state agency was at fault), it seems unlikely anyone will replace a ruined aquifer or a depleted water supply, for starters. We could demand multibillion-dollar bonding from oil and gas operators, but no; that might “discourage business.” Whose?

I’m sure no one opposing local fracking is a wild-eyed, Boulder wannabe communist. My own councilperson works for a statewide business booster organization. My own councilperson works for a statewide business booster organization. I am certain no one opposing local fracking is getting a dime out of his or her stance. I wish someone would ask if the same can be said with regard to former mayors.

People sacrificed to profit by O & G

By now you likely have received your ballots for the November election. If you have yet to fill it in or intend to vote on Nov. 6 at a voting station, please consider these facts.

As you probably know from ads and fliers, seven former mayors suddenly have the wisdom and insight to recommend that you oppose Ballot Question 300. What makes them such experts? Not one of these seven ever presided over a council considering the issue of fracking. Like virtually all of us, they had likely never heard of “fracking” before November 2011, when the issue first arose on Mayor Coombs’ watch. The seven aren’t experts — they are shills for the oil and gas industry, paid to pose and opine. In my world, paid-for opinions are worth less than the paper they are printed on and belong in but one place: the recycling bin.

Why in the world would a heavy industry such as oil and gas even think of drilling within sight or sound of a municipality?

And why the desire to drill so closely to a school or a park? Here’s a number to think about– $75. That’s the estimated cost per horizontal foot of drilling. The drill has to go straight down about 4,000 feet before it curves to the horizontal. That’s a fixed cost. But once it curves, every foot to reach the payload is $75. One hundred feet equals $7,500; 750 feet costs $56,250. Suddenly small change turns to serious money and all else is secondary to the bottom line, so the hell with you, the hell with me and the hell with Longmont.

The regulations currently governing the O&G industry were formulated around 1985. At that time no one had likely ever considered drilling and fracking operations anywhere near a city or town. Does anyone seriously believe that if these same regulations were under consideration today they would pass? That a drilling pad could be set up within 350 feet of a school or a home? That the millions of gallons of contaminated water returned to the surface could be stored in open pits within a residential area?

How many of you remember that in 2005 Vice President Dick Cheney strong-armed Congress into passing the “Halliburton loophole,” which exempted fracking operations from some of the protections of the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Air acts? Think about that — a retired CEO of a company (Halliburton) that pioneered fracking technology persuades Congress to exempt the industry from such bothersome regulations because fracking was “safe, harmless and benign.” If the operation was so squeaky clean, why were these exemptions requested? Aside from the methane that leaks from every single drill site, is there another odor wafting about?

The O&G folks will tell you that fracking has been around for 60 or so years, but what they won’t volunteer is that fracking today ain’t your grandpa’s fracking. Back then, the water injected was just that — water. Today it’s a rich stew of chemicals so complex that each company considers their mix a trade secret and they fought to keep it that way, hidden from competitors, regulatory agencies, monitors, cities, towns and you — the folks whose lives may be the most violated.

Back then, the pressure of the water/sand mix exploded far below in the horizontal pipes was perhaps 9,000 to 10,000 psi. Today it’s pushing 14,000 psi. Back then it didn’t matter because no community was within sight or sound of a drill site. Today, if the industry had its way it could occur around the second hole at Sunset Golf Course or in the middle of the cemetery. And today, as back then, no one has a clue as to just what the long-term effects of all this activity might be on the water or air our grandkids drink and breath.

These are not — or at least should not be — partisan issues; a Republican household will be affected by the stench, noise and loss of property values every bit as much as will a Democratic household. We’re in this together, like it or not.

Longmont, let’s overwhelmingly vote for this proposal. Let’s see what 25,000 or 30,000 votes can do to enlarge and influence the conversation. Vote “yes” on 300 to ensure the message is delivered and that future generations will want to stay, live and grow in our city.

Don’t let Big Oil determine our future

A good number of folks have inquired in recent months as to how I became a part of the local fracking issue. I have been deeply involved in this wonderful community of Longmont for more than 20 years (a Chamber member for most of those years, a longtime Rotarian, an advocate and fundraiser for many local nonprofits, and current board member of the Friends of the Longmont Senior Center).

My wife and I raised our two daughters in Longmont, having chosen to move from Houston, Texas, and avoid its extreme traffic, pollution and frantic pace. I have also owned and operated a local business for more than 10 years.

So why did “mild mannered” Michael Bellmont become involved with so contentious an issue as fracking in the city? It initially had little to do with fracking specifically or even oil and gas generally. Rather, it sprang from a deep concern around my perceptions that our culture is allowing the democratic process to be effectively bought by the highest bidder. A good example is the trend evidenced by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which gives corporations (which can always outspend individuals) the ability to donate unlimited dollars to political action committees and thus “purchase” the votes needed to further their own interests and profits.

Self-interest and profit are not in themselves good or bad. However, we all know that, without restraints, history is replete with examples of the abuse of power. In our world, power is always associated with great wealth.

The recent frenetic proliferation of the newer, “unconventional” fracking into densely populated communities like Longmont is a clear incarnation of the abuse of such power. I am personally not an advocate of “banning fracking” generally. Though it grieves me, we were all born into an unfortunate dependence on fossil fuels.

Both sides of this issue agree that oil and gas drilling, including “fracking,” is a heavy industrial operation. Interestingly, not a single other industrial activity is allowed in proximity to homes and schools in this city, and would, in fact, be illegal. Why does the oil and gas industry enjoy a special privilege that none others do? Why are their dangerous industrial operations that belong far from a healthy community like ours not only allowed, but actually forced upon us under current regulations?

Twenty-eight oil and gas companies (including Halliburton and Chevron) that are all based outside of Colorado have contributed almost $500,000 to defeat Question 300, which only prohibits fracking and its toxic waste disposal from within city limits.

Do you believe they have your and your family’s health in mind? Do you believe they care about the protection of your property? Do they have a stake in the quality of the air we and our children will be breathing for decades to come? The desire for profit is not inherently good or bad, but it can never be justified if it is elevated over the health and well-being of human beings.

If we are willing to believe the expensive, bullying, high cost, full-page ads designed to strike fear in us using fabricated, inflated projections of a lawsuit, then we will have once again fallen prey to being bought and paid for by wealthy corporations. Do not let them “buy” your vote. Tell them, “We, our children, and our health are not for sale.” Join me in voting “yes” on Question 300. Let us exercise our constitutional right to health, safety and protection of property. I can honestly say that “mild mannered” Michael Bellmont will be very glad when Nov. 7 rolls around. It will be good to return to pre-fracking days!

Seven “has been” mayors support propaganda

Editor’s note: Brian Hansen served on the Longmont City Council from 2007 to 2011.

Brian Hansen

If the seven former mayors who signed on as shills for the oil and gas industry’s assault on the residents of Longmont were aware of the horrendously expensive and deceitful attacks that would be made against Ballot Question 300, they should be ashamed at their disservice to the community.

The recently submitted Report of Contributions and Expenditures that are in the city clerk’s office shows $447,500 contributed by the oil and gas industry and not one dollar contributed by the seven former mayors who are speaking for the opposition.

By now, every voter has no doubt received multiple mailings of color brochures, complete with a photo of the former mayors against a beautiful mountain backdrop. The deceitful message in the ads is hidden in the white boxes, where fragmented quotations from respected federal officials are used to persuade you that hydraulic fracturing is “OK,” “inherently safe” and can be done “without harmful impacts.” The propagandists who prepared the ads or the former mayors (or both) must not have believed anyone would bother to verify the accuracy of the fragmented quotations.

I have looked up several of the citations, and I encourage you to do the same. I can assure you, the story told by the fragmented quotations is far from complete. The untold portion of the story includes two important omissions.

The first is numerous cautions made by the quoted speakers regarding the necessity for tough regulatory action to protect public health and the environment from the impacts of fracking. By the admission of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and the commission, we know the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has never adequately regulated the industry in our state.

The second deceitful omission is a lack of candor regarding the fact that the quotations in the white boxes do not pertain to densely populated city environments. However, the propagandists want you to believe fracking is as safe in your neighborhood and near your child’s school as it is on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land, in the Gulf of Mexico or on rural farms.

But what do you expect from an industry that is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into a campaign to defeat the efforts of Longmont residents to appropriately regulate their industry?

The most recent full-page color ads arriving in your newspaper are attempting to have you believe passage of Ballot Question 300 will mean millions of dollars spent by residents to acquire mineral rights within the city. The owners of the mineral rights will have the same access to extract those assets as they have had for the past 100 years, before the highly industrialized extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing. Question 300 does not take anyone’s property rights; it merely reasonably regulates the industrial process that is allowed within our neighborhoods and near schools and population centers.

Longmont needs to stand up for itself and vote “yes’ on 300.

Jonathan Singer the multi-issue candidate

Photo by Doug Wray - Free to use if attributed 'Photo by FreeRangeLongmont.com'

Jonathan Singer – HD11 Candidate

In the race for Colorado House District 11, there’s one striking difference between the candidates that I saw as I read their statements in the T-C election guide. Jonathan Singer, the Democrat, mentions a lot of issues that concern him. Jobs and the economy are No. 1.

But Singer also has other important goals: improve education by reducing class size in overcrowded schools and holding down college tuition; improve health care by giving everyone access to quality, affordable health insurance; protect our environment by conserving natural resources and giving local communities control over fracking on their own land. That’s an impressive list of important issues.

Singer’s Republican opponent agrees with him that jobs and the economy are No. 1. But that’s it. She doesn’t mention any other issue that will come before the state Legislature. Not a single one. Hasn’t she noticed that our kids need better education, that all of us need better health care, that our environment is endangered and must be protected?

Though she said she personally supports reproductive freedom and “equality,” a vote for her might keep the Republican stranglehold on the state House, as her party is committed to blocking any legislation on such issues.

And her plan for creating more jobs is to push government totally out of the picture. No Republican who is serious about governing thinks that’s possible. Even the “new” Mitt Romney sees an important role for government in improving the economy.

It’s pretty obvious that Jonathan Singer is the candidate to choose to represent this district.