Longmont

Let’s Send Vic Meyers to Washington

Vic Meyers

Vic Meyers

This year the residents of Colorado’s 4th Congressional District can send a strong message to our nation’s capital.

The message is that we are fed up with the failure of Congress to do its job, and we’re sending back a man to help fix it.

That man is Vic Meyers. He’s running because he shares our frustration and wants to do something about it. Vic will represent us, not the wealthy individuals and corporations who believe that their money makes their opinions more important and valuable than ours.

Send a message this year. Vote for Vic Meyers for Congress. He’ll do us proud.

TC Sale Delicious Irony

From TimesCall.com

NEW YORK — Digital First Media, the operator of The Denver Post, Daily Camera, Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Daily, Broomfield Enterprise and Colorado Hometown Weekly, announced Friday that it will “evaluate and consider strategic alternatives” that could lead to the sale of some or all of the company.

CEO John Paton said the company has retained UBS Securities to review a full range of alternatives — including selling the entire company, selling regional clusters or doing nothing.

“We believe we have many options available to us to maximize the value of our businesses for our stockholders and the board of directors has therefore decided to assess the full range of these opportunities,” Paton said.


The Times-Call, despite FRL’s continuing calls to moderate comments and require identification of commenters has stayed the course and now the newspaper finds itself again on the chopping block.

This comment in particular stands out:

AsokAsus

More deckchair rearranging. The death of print media is inevitable, and shifting to digital publication means nothing but competition with billions of other well-established websites which are already far better organized than the virtually unreadable digital newspaper sites, but even worse for the print publishers, ad revenue per ad is at least one ten thousandth less for a digital ad vs a print ad.

Bottom line is that printed newspapers are dead and their brands are worth zero. And quite frankly, it couldn’t happen to a better bunch considering that the bulk of newspapers have been unrelenting in blatantly pushing a s0cia!istic, “Progressive” agenda for decades instead of engaging in objective news reporting. So, basically, good riddance to bad rubbish.


Yes, the Times Call, that bastion of ‘Progressive’ thought. *COUGH*

No more bully pulpit for this bully.

No more bully pulpit for this bully.

To the extreme right of Longmont – your house organ has imploded and your pet hate-blogger has moved on. My advice is to clean up your act and start working to help Longmont. FRL is willing to publish your articles but you’ll need to stop trying to blame all your ills on the left.

Free Range Longmont is still here despite years of smears and lies aided and abetted by the Lehman family via the Times-Call. Now we get to see them hoist on their own petard.

The irony is truly delicious.

Here’s wishing the legions1 of anonymous hate posters a not-so-fond farewell and hoping the Times-Call gets the wire-brush cleaning2 its needed desperately for decades.


1.

Longmont's self-proclaimed 'First Lady'

Longmont’s self-proclaimed ‘First Lady’

Maybe not legions, perhaps just one or two very dispepsic hate-mongers?

2. As in all the Lehmans gone (waving merrily) Bye!!

A Call for More Balance at Vance Brand

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving's Twin Otter skydiving planes.

Mi-Hile Skydiving’s Twin Otter skydiving plane.

I write to express a moderate opinion regarding the current conflict between many county residents and Mile High Skydiving. We live a few miles west of the Vance Brand Airport and plainly hear the excessive and rather continuous noise from the jump planes as they climb at maximum rate, then descends under 75 percent power to expedite their subsequent loads to altitude, often within minutes of each other. It is onerous and unfortunate.

Mile-Hi Skydiving is operating within the limits of a federal law which doesn’t restrict aircraft noise or frequency of operation. The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) reserves the exclusive control of the skies throughout the U.S., and restricts local control of the airway system so that free, unimpeded air traffic can be unencumbered by a myriad of local regulation. This concept makes sense for air transportation of people and goods between airports.

The logic of this system breaks down, in my opinion, when those FAA regulations are used to allow a very noisy operation such as Mile-Hi Skydiving, to operate from, and back to, the same airport on a continuous basis, climbing and descending over the same areas of the county at full power settings. That doesn’t seem to me to be the intent of the FAA purpose for exclusive control of the airspace.

Tim Barth, the airport manager, has correctly used this argument in the past, stating that he has little control over activities that are regulated by the FAA. However, there have been several instances where local municipalities have successfully enacted noise control regulations at their airports. I believe that the City of Longmont does have the authority, if it so chooses, to control operations at its airport, including limiting excessive noise from planes, their hours and frequency of operation, hangar activities, etc.

The pressures to enact such control seem to come from a small part of the populous, many of whom are not city residents. So, from legislators’ “re-election perspective”, there’s little incentive to respond to complaints. Like me, there are probably many who are offended by the noise, but see little benefit of complaining to the deaf ears of the airport. Although Mile-Hi Skydiving provides little to the city in the way of taxes (it even purchases its own wholesale fuel rather than supporting the newly christened Elite Aviation) its activity does increase the utilization of the airport which probably aids in justifying federal funding.

However, the life of a small airport is fragile. Each year many across the country close due to inactivity, citizen mandate, or development pressures. Vance Brand has, so far, been relatively successful in maintaining a good support base of both the aircraft owners and the citizenry. But most of the airport tenants and pilots (I’m one) do not appreciate Mile-Hi Skydiving’s hazard to flying and their noisy activities. And more and more local citizens don’t either, resulting in deteriorated relations between the airport and the voters. Eventually there may be enough pressure from such sources to encourage a decision from legislators to move or close the airport.

Those feelings are progressing now. Many will tell you how beneficial the skydiving operation is to the airport. But many more will tell you that it is having a far more deleterious effect.

Gary Rubin lives in Longmont.

Neutralization vs Annihilation

The frustration and futility of Israel ever finding a lasting peace with their Palestinian neighbors is once again on display. Eleven cease-fires, eleven failures. Just why intelligent Palestinians would support Hamas- a militant group with but one strategy – blindly firing rockets into (mostly) Israel dung piles and fields, is a wonderment indeed. Regardless, Hamas fires rockets, Israel’s “Dome” brings the majority down and gives Israel an excuse to once again  bomb and blow up that sorry place called The Gaza Strip.

Given that Hamas appears to be led by a collection of intellectual anvils and given that Israel PM Netanyahu‘s approach to diplomacy is hardball writ large, there should be no argument that this war is a loss-loss for all parties. If the loss of Palestinian children is not sufficient reason to wonder at Israel’s strategy, add to the carnage the generations of hatred now seeded in the souls of the survivors.

One answer to this mess might lie in an effort to neutralize Hamas – not by force but by their abandonment by Palestinians who see a better way – one which offers opportunity, security  and room to once again dream. I have been pushing a concept for at least 20 years without success, mainly because I’ve never managed to reach anyone with the clout to bring the concept to anyone with political clout. So here it is- one more time; hold onto your seat and before you say “It will never work”, at least read to the end.

If you want to step outside the box you might start thinking about the reality of Gaza – too many people, too little land and zero hope for a better life. There’s a Nobel Peace Prize just waiting to be shared by PM Netanyahu and Egyptian President Sisi if they are willing to break through generations of hatred and begin to think outside the boxes they are in. Here’s the idea: Egypt cedes Sinai land south of the existing Gaza border (say- 200 kilometers) with an eastern border continuing Gaza’s present border.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia-The Free Encyclopedia

Occupied Palestinian Territories

Imagine;  the desert would bloom along a coastline of resorts and commercial development, seaports and desalination facilities. Thousands of jobs would be created, the economies of the region (particularly Egypt’s) would take off and a “New Gaza” would be born. A declaration of a Swiss-style neutrality would further geld Hamas and with time and demographic shifts it would become a bad memory.

What would it take to bring this about? Guts and dreams. Political courage. The recognition that neither side will ever prevail and live in peaceful harmony. Egypt’s President  Sisi would see the disintegration of the despised Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza and  just possibly stand beside Mr. Netanyahu in Oslo.

Crazy? Got a better idea? Please pass this along to anyone who might have some clout. Give hope a chance.

Longmont’s home rule charter is under assault

Where's council?

Where’s council?

Longmont’s Home Rule City Charter is the foundational document for the city government of Longmont. The charter can be amended only when a majority of Longmont voters approve a change. Section 3.7 of the charter states, “Each councilman shall take an oath or affirmation before entering upon the duties of his office, that he will support the Constitution of the United States and the state of Colorado, and the charter and ordinances of the city of Longmont, and faithfully perform the duties of his office”.

We are rapidly approaching a time when current members of the city council will be tested regarding their sworn oath to support the city charter. On July 24, a Boulder County District Judge issued an adverse ruling against the citizens initiated charter change banning the use of hydraulic fracturing within the city limits. The judge stayed her ruling pending an appeal to a higher court. Council members who vote to defend our home rule charter by appealing this lower court decision will fulfill their oath. Those who oppose appealing the decision will be voting to capitulate to the oil and gas industry, hardly an act that supports the city charter.

The city charter provision under assault is the one initiated by citizens in 2012 when they became convinced the city council was not adequately protecting the residents’ health, safety and quality of life, all of which were threatened by the toxic industrial operations of the oil and gas industry. Ballot question 300 was approved by 60 percent of the voters. At the time, several members of the city council actively campaigned against passage of the amendment.

Longmont citizens should be aware that their city charter is under assault by the oil and gas industry, by Gov. Hickenlooper and by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). The assault began immediately after Longmont residents approved ballot question 300. Gov. Hickenlooper’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission immediately joined the oil and gas industry in a lawsuit to overturn the citizens’ vote. The same duo of players initiated a lawsuit against the city council for adopting an ordinance in June 2012 imposing additional safety regulations on the industry.

These powerful and well funded players are  determined to smash any ordinance or charter provision that attempts to reasonably regulate the oil and gas industry within Longmont’s corporate limits.
It is up to Longmont residents to clearly communicate to their elected council members that the city charter belongs to the people, not to the council. Residents need to remind their elected representatives that they, not the council, initiated and supported this charter amendment while overcoming nearly $500,000 in oil and gas industry propaganda opposing the initiative.

I encourage any city council member who has not had an up close exposure to the devastating impacts of toxic oil and gas operations on residential neighborhoods to travel to Greeley, Erie, Firestone or Frederick. For those who believe Gov. Hickenlooper’s propaganda about Colorado’s “toughest regulations in the nation” protects everyone, check out the neighborhood in Greeley where the COGCC recently approved permits for 67 wells within 350 feet of Frontier Elementary School.

Fortunately, the Mineral Corporation reconsidered drilling on the permitted site after neighborhood residents expressed outrage. However, Hickenlooper’s COGCC did nothing to protect the neighborhood or school children.

Longmont’s Home Rule Charter can be amended only when residents vote to amend it. Until that happens, each member of the Longmont City Council is expected to faithfully perform the duties of their office. Longmont residents expect council members to uphold their oath to support the charter and they will be held accountable at the ballot box if they fail. Any elected official hoping to use “it is too expensive to keep appealing” as an excuse to abandon the defense of the city charter needs to check with the city attorney regarding how much of the work has already been done for appealing this issue all of the way to the Supreme Court. Of course, if the district court’s decision is overturned, it will be expensive to prepare for trial to defend the fracking ban. However, if council members do not believe in fighting to defend the voter- approved city charter, why did they run for city council and swear to support it?

Gordon Pedrow is a former Longmont city manager.

Air War on Longmont

20140618_Longmont Noise Poll Results

N125PM-otter

N125PM – the “Twin Otter” – one of Mile Hi Skydiving’s jump planes – one of the sources of excessive noise.

I’d like Longmont Airport to be the good neighbor it once was in our community, and that it could be once again. All it takes is enforcement of reasonable controls on the number of noisy Mile-Hi Skydiving flights that 37 per cent of T-C survey respondents said is by far the most irritating source of noise in Longmont.

The tragedy is that this noise isn’t coming from a public good like farming or transportation; it’s made by the pursuit of pleasure by skydivers creating large profits for a single private business – Mile-Hi Skydiving.

I live 7 miles away from the airport and I’m not under the approach or landing flyways. Now that its summer, 4 – 6 skydive planes/hour are grinding their way over my house for up to 12 hours each weekend day. They force their noise on me for 20 minutes of every hour by blasting out their penetrating brand of grinding racket that can’t be blocked from consciousness, while they rasp and claw at the sky for altitude to drop their 35,000 jumpers/year.

Here’s an example of the Mile-Hi Skydiving noise nuisance – imagine this racket coming over your house 4 – 6 times every hour, 12 hours a day, on every summer weekend day that weather permits

I’ve lived in my current home since 1990. That’s 5 years before Mile-Hi existed, and many years before they started ramping up operations with noisier aircraft and increased numbers of noisy flights that rob me of the peace and quiet I bought with my property. No, I’m not “Next to” the airport – I’m 7 milesaway and out of the regular flyways. No, I didn’t sign an airport easement – I live outside of the official “airport impact zone.” No, I’m not going to move somewhere else – I was here first, and Mile-Hi did not ask my consent to destroy the peacefulness of my neighborhood. It’s time for Mile-Hi to stop its noise bullying. The reasonable limit on the frequency of noisy skydiving flights has been exceeded.

N66GS-MileHi-LowResWeb

N66GS – another Mile Hi skydiving jump plane – one of the sources of excessive noise.

NRA Cynicism Leads to Murders

It always hits a little harder when tragedy strikes a familiar place, and so it is as we learn of the latest massacre, this time in Isla Vista where our son lived for several years before graduating from UC Santa Barbara. Three stabbed to death, three shot and killed, six wounded and unfortunately a seventh dead- the killer.

Unfortunate because had he lived we might have learned much more beyond his suicide video; much more of what in God’s name could drive a young man to exact such punishment on so many, most of whom were unknown to him.

The NRA will of course be blamed and they will of course place the blame squarely on the barren field of mental health in America, and they are correct. Had this boy received better treatment, had authorities been empowered to vigorously intervene; well yes, this might not have happened.  Instead, sheriff’s deputies were sent to interview him to determine if he posed a threat to society.  Since when were deputies trained in psychology and the nuances of mental health? These actions do  not suggest a broken system; they suggest there is no functional system to repair.

All of which avoids introspection, any sniff of analysis and no scintilla of NRA guilt. Because of watered-down  background checks and the lack of a meaningful data base to track weapon sales- all fostered by and paid for by the NRA, the boy had no difficulty in purchasing three high powered handguns, and off he went on his rampage.

It makes little difference how the guns were obtained, for if not legally purchased, guns are never far away.  A closet, a deal on a corner, a mail order unknown or a  gun show- it hardly matters. What does matter is that anyone in this country can somehow manage to get his (mostly “his”) hands on a weapon. Rifle, shotgun, pistol, military  caliber weapons- it matters not, and the NRA is almost solely responsible for this accessibility. “Almost” because without the assistance of a corrupt Congress they would have never achieved  their perverted goal of arming America.

Fear and slick TV commercials are the driving forces in today’s culture. Despite years of statistical evidence that a gun in the home is far more dangerous to the family than any intruder, the NRA continues to preach the lie that we are all threatened. Despite the utter stupidity of imagining a citizenry armed with handguns and AK-47’s defending against the US military, the NRA wraps itself in the flag and calls for even greater access to weapons. The rationale for  this philosophy beggars the imagination and can only be understood by understanding the NRA.

I have written before, and state it again: The NRA is a lobbying group put together and funded by arms manufacturers. The folks who make guns wanted access to our elected representatives and poured money into the trough to which so many of our honorable members of congress find nourishment. As time went by, the evidence of fear as a factor in successful campaigns became more evident and the NRA jumped in.

Suddenly fear, God, flag and country became synonymous with the NRA and today we see the result of their efforts. Three more beautiful innocents dead and several injured by bullets fired from an NRA approved weapon.

It’s difficult to imagine what might someday break our culture of guns. Yes, the state of mental health facilities in the US is shameful. So too is the acceptance of the NRA into our daily lives. Answers are not far away.

  1. Get  the gun(s) out of your home. Don’t sell it – hand it over to the police to dispose of and forget how much it cost you. Check the stats and you’ll discover the odds are you’ve saved at least one life which is far more valuable than any weapon.
  2. Let your reps at every level of elected office know that if they support the NRA in any way, they’ll lose your vote.
  3. Demand the improvement and quality of personnel in the mental health field and be prepared to pay a little more in taxes. Ask yourself if the NRA should not be required to help pay the bill- after all, they are singularly responsible for the continuing carnage of gun violence in America which now demands greater social services. If the NRA gave a damn for America it would by now have started funding mental health care. But it hasn’t of course and probably never will. Hope burns eternal  which I pray the grand kids will someday appreciate.
  4. Understand the cynicism of the NRA and the way in which the American public has been manipulated by these puppets of the gun industry. I’ll continue to write; let’s all quietly tell the NRA to go to hell.

In both the public and private sector, power is the power to hide

From SunlightFoundation

by Emily Shaw

In academic definitions of power, power is equated with influence over others. In Max Weber’s frequently-cited formulation, power is “the chance of a man or a number of men to realize their own will in a social action even against the resistance of others.”  Harold Lasswell similarly describes politics as the art of determining “who gets what, when and how” and examines how individuals influence others to achieve those outcomes.

In the 21st century, the power to influence runs up against the internet-enabled equality of informational arms. When regular people can see how influence is being exercised, that influence can be highlighted and discussed — and is counterbalanced by public recognition of its antidemocratic effects.

In order for power to preserve itself, it now uses its influence to hide.

Read the rest at SunlightFoundation.com


I’ve watched this exact phenomenon happening in Longmont, starting with the 2009 city council election; powerful forces were set in motion and secret deals were very obviously made.

The numbers are clear, the election was bought and paid for.

Gabe Santos

Longmont City Council member Gabe Santos

Under no circumstances should Gabe Santos be left on council – he’s tied directly to corruption and his own supporters admitted being in on the hidden attacks waged in his campaign’s name.

Funny how it all spins down and around to oil.

Watch Santos fight tooth and nail for fracking at all costs – that’s what his masters paid for years ago, likely when he was working for Tom Delay.

Defrocked United Methodist Minister Rev. Frank Schaefer to Preach at First United Methodist Church of Boulder on March 23rd

First United Methodist Church of Boulder (FUMC) is honored to have Rev. Frank Schaefer as their guest preacher on Sunday March 23rd. His sermon is titled “Of Sacred Worth and Human Dignity “ based on John 4:5-29. Schaefer is a former ordained minister of the United Methodist Church who was tried by a United Methodist court for officiating his son’s same-sex marriage in December 2013. He was defrocked after his refusal to uphold the Book of Discipline, which requires him to denounce gay marriage rights. Now a United Methodist lay person, speaker and activist, he continues to advocate for human rights across the country.

FUMC is a part of a network of congregations and pastors who have vowed a higher loyalty to “Biblical obedience” which mandates embracing the marginalized and affirming the value of all of God’s children rather than following discriminatory rules of the institutional church. While they began somewhat underground, many of these United Methodists, particularly in the western part of the United States, have become more and more emboldened to act as their consciences demand. FUMC Boulder pastors, Joe Agne and Pat Bruns, are leaders in this movement, organizing other progressives, stating clearly our congregation’s positions to the public and to our own Bishop, and taking actions such as inviting Rev. Frank Schaefer to preach from our pulpit and experience the support of our congregation and community.

“It is a special privilege to welcome Frank Schaefer and his spouse Brigette to First United Methodist Church of Boulder. Last December the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church withdrew Frank’s ordination. This happened right before Christmas, that special season where we celebrate God’s presence coming into the world in ways that embraces all people everywhere. Our denomination needs to work harder at understanding the story of God’s acceptance and love of everyone”, Bruns said about Schaefer’s visit.

Schaefer’s trial and the divide over gay marriage within the United Methodist Church made national headlines. Jean Hodges, a longtime member of FUMC and Regional Director for PFLAG made this comment about the controversy, “I actually am glad to see the media expose the hypocrisy of the UMC with the story of Schaefer, the pastor who presided at his gay son’s ceremony. Just as Jesus instructed his followers to non-violently but cleverly unmask the abusive actions of the power-holders of his day, this publicity may awaken more UM General Conference delegates to acknowledge how atrocious these policies are and how destructive they will be to the future growth of our denomination. Like the extremes of the political parties fighting endlessly in the United States or a family in conflict over differing values, conflict and struggle may be inevitable but speaking the truth to each other and acknowledging the pain we are inflicting is one necessary step if reconciliation is ever to occur.”

Rev. Schaefer will speak with FUMC’s Adult Forum at 9:00 am, preach during worship at 10:30am and lead an open conversation with area clergy and lay leaders in the afternoon from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm. A wine and cheese reception will be hosted by Out Boulder beginning at 5:00pm.

ABOUT FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF BOULDER
First United Methodist Church of Boulder is a welcoming and affirming faith community that compassionately advocates for social justice and equality for all. We joyfully welcome all people of any race, gender, sexual orientation, and faith traditions. Visit us online at fumcboulder.org and at Facebook.com/fumcboulder.

Christians Must Embrace Truth

clark_aricby Aric Clark

This opinion column first appeared at The Fort Morgan Times.

On Tuesday evening there was a public debate held on the subject of evolution vs. creationism. Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis an organization dedicated to promoting the idea that the Earth is 6,000 years old, faced off against an icon from my childhood: Bill Nye “the Science Guy”. It was billed as Religion vs. Science, Bible vs. Evolution, Christians vs. Atheists, but it was really a publicity stunt for Ken Ham’s business that Bill Nye unfortunately fell into. We have been baited into the trap as well if we accept that Ken Ham represents the Biblical or Christian perspective on this subject.

Millions of Christians like myself do not subscribe to a forced literal reading of scripture that supposes the earth to be very young, flying in the face of overwhelming evidence from every field of science. In fact, the perspective Ham proposes is a relatively modern innovation born out of Fundamentalist-Modernist controversies of the 19th and 20th centuries that needlessly set religion and science up as enemies. Early Christians read the Bible allegorically. The 2nd century Church Father Origen of Alexandria famously wrote:

“For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life?… I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally.”

The creation narratives of the book of Genesis are works of poetry. Even when they were written they were not understood in the literal way that Ham wants us to read them. They were composed partly as a challenge to similar Babylonian myths that portray humanity as slaves to powerful but uncaring gods. By contrast the Hebrew story of creation portrays God as caring, creating us in God’s own image to hold a special place of esteem. The point of the story is not whether it took six days, but that the God of Israel is powerful and compassionate.

To take allegorical and poetic works of ancient priests and turn them into a forensic laboratory for theories of human origin unsupported by a single shred of corresponding evidence from the natural world is extremely ham-handed. The biblical city of Jericho is over 11,000 years old for goodness sakes.

Christians do not need to believe that humans and dinosaurs coexisted in order to be faithful to scripture, but we do need to be lovers of the truth to be faithful followers of Jesus of Nazareth. When Ken Ham and Bill Nye were asked what it would take to persuade them to change their minds they responded, “nothing,” and “evidence,” respectively. Nye’s answer is the more Christian answer. It requires humility to be willing to listen to the evidence and accept where it leads rather than to cling dogmatically to unfounded opinions.

Rev. Aric Clark is the pastor of United Presbyterian Church of Fort Morgan. Read more of his writing on his blog at http://twofriarsandafool.com

Jones, Singer and Foote Townhall Longmont Jan. 30, 2014

Rep. Jon Singer, Mike Foote and Matt Jones

Rep. Jon Singer, Mike Foote and Matt Jones

Three Democratic legislators held a townhall in Longmont at Front Range Community College on January 30, 2014. Residents turned out to ask questions about higher education support, family issues and the ALEC-controlled Highway 36 contract. Lots of great discussion. Mike Foote, John Singer and Matt Jones took turns responding to questions and discussing legislative issues.

Rep. Singer at one point referenced his well-worn shoes, reflecting on how the wear reminded him of his constituents and what they’re dealing with daily. Jon’s been a great rep so far – he’s the soul of civility and compassion.

Two darker moments: a gentleman politely but very determinedly brought up the issue of a meth house that’s wrecking their neighborhood, despite constant complaints and police action. It’s a mess and I encourage the city to move quickly.

DSC_0049-gun-rights

“You’re all liars”

The second downbeat note was a gentleman of some distinction making the clear and unequivocal observation that all three of our representatives were ‘liars’ and had ‘violated their oaths’ – needless to say you could practically hear the audience bristle. I’m pleased to say no one interrupted him or shouted him down. Our representatives politely responded, rebutted all of his points and gave him his hearing. He left immediately afterward and was unavailable for comment.

Don Haddad of St. Vrain Schools spoke briefly from his seat in the crowd and had good points about funding and how it directly affects the classroom.

Laverne Johnson, Mayor of Lyons was also in the crowd and had a few comments. She was greeted warmly by the audience.

FRCC President Andrew R. Dorsey

FRCC President Andrew R. Dorsey

Front Range Community College President Andrew Dorsey also spoke a number of times and underlined in concrete terms how his work on shared credit had benefitted the entire Community College system. He also mentioned FRCC’s new machining program. Mr. Dorsey’s a great speaker and a steady hand for the college. I admired how he took the questions about his position and responded eloquently and politely.

DSC_0052-delgatoMembers of the student governance group were also present and spoke briefly but engagingly. I invite the students to submit articles and links to their blogs. FRL welcomes FRCC students!

I’m glad I had the time to attend, a well-done event and great chance to talk to your reps, FRCC’s student organization did the community a great service. Thanks folks!!

Here’s the photoset at Flickr.

ALEC’s Half-Century Contract on the Boulder Highway, US 36

Have you ever wished to sign a 50 year contract?

Sounds like a major bummer. Even utilities seek contracts from city-clients that last only 20 years, although their finance projections for their coal plants can go 60 years. Fifty years, 60 years, 20 years, they all last longer than most marriages. But in a few days Colorado’s Department of Transportation (CDOT) will sign a 50 year contract for the management of the Boulder Turnpike and its toll lanes, affecting transportation planning options from here to central Denver.

The long term contract is the fruit of a trend around the nation, decried by many, to invent “public private partnerships” also known as P3’s, following a grand design crafted by former Colorado State Rep. Glenn Vaad, in the eagle nest of committee meetings he chaired with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Yes, the same ALEC that writes pro-corporate model legislation with active state legislators, and yes, the same Glenn Vaad who’s just been appointed to serve on Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission (but is not yet approved by our Senate).

We should care that when the deal is signed for the 50 year concession for US 36, no one outside the immediate participants will have seen it, according to Ken Beitel with Friends of Colorado PUC and founder of the Drive SunShine Institute that promotes electric drive transportation and democratic process. Also, in coming weeks CDOT’s special office called the Higher Performance Transportation Enterprises (HTPE) will pursue a P3 arrangement for many Colorado roads including a major overhaul of I-70 in Denver along with a maintenance and toll-lane agreement for it all the way up to Glenwood.

Gravely imperfect, this P3 plan can still help Colorado. With the recession and the increasing efficiency of all manner of vehicles, the state gets less in fuel taxes for roads each year. According to Boulder councilman Macon Cowles the national gas tax has been frozen since 1993 and in polls Coloradans have said, “Not just no but hell no” to taxation for roads, and now there’s global competition for many materials used in highway construction which means to Cowles, “On transportation we’re in a very bad spot.”

So, allowing private companies to invest in our roads to profit from the toll lanes can bring fast relief to dangerous bridges and other binds. In 2009 Governor Ritter signed the FASTER bill, empowering CDOT to seek out and enter private-public P3 contracts to bring funding into transportation projects. The governor’s press release says that governments affected by the user fees can veto the projects, but how much scrutiny do they really get? And what about down the road of those long 50 years?

Review groups such as USPIRG have noted in particular that P3’s usually include “non compete” clauses to keep localities from building effectively competitive roads that might lure cars away from the toll lanes. Is that ALEC’s game — to talk about competition while ruling it out in the contract? Remember: 50 years.

Boulder Mayor Matt Applebaum explained by phone some key problems in developing the contract. First, he said, it’s still not clear whether there’s a non-compete requirement in the contract. Also, CDOT didn’t want to put in very much money to the turnpike upgrade, Applebaum said, which means that overflow revenues intended to go back to communities in the US 36 corridor will arrive later. To counter this, it has been suggested by the Plenary Group managing the highway that instead of allowing pairs of people to drive free in the HOV/toll lanes, groups of three minimum will be allowed to use the HOV/toll lanes which means pairs wanting access to that faster lane will have to pay. (Most lanes on US 36 will remain free.) The 3+ standard has been seen as a rip off to the public, however it remains plausible that the number one factor in upping the cost of a long drive is the fuel efficiency of one’s car in any lane.

It’s not clear if this P3 arrangement and its hidden details will be as bad as feared — or as silly as featured by ALEC’s own daft positioning when ALEC announced their idea of “true economic stimulus.” Prominently quoting its Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force Chair Rep. Glenn Vaad, it touted its newest initiative, “Publicopoly” to help states to shift government programs to private sector competitive bidding, with a special focus on transportation. About as subtle as “Unsinkable Titanic”, the term “Publicopoly” seems clear enough: let private interests grab monopoly control over public sector functions.

In Boulder we know a lot about monopoly grip over critical infrastructure that drives the heating of our climate, bumping weather into the unprecedented ferocity of the fires, floods and droughts suffered in Colorado, and we in Boulder voted three time to wriggle loose of XcelEnergy’s fossil fuel electric system. We in Colorado should recall what we know about ALEC: it has been trying to unravel states’ renewable energy standards and prompted voter-ID laws that have been ruled unconstitutional in three states, among many other vexing initiatives.

Therefore we should seek public review and legislative approval of the P3 contracts being signed. Will they accord flexibility to the state to favor emission free transportation as more climate change comes barreling down upon us?

Also Colorado’s Senate should find out who is really being served in the person of Glenn Vaad, a decorated ALEC committee chair who has thereby taken scholarship money from XcelEnergy and faced ALEC’s robust discipline that nearly foisted a loyalty pledge on its legislator members. Last but not least, the Senate should explore how Vaad’s committee member at ALEC, Geoff Segal of MacQuarie Capital, came to be a financial adviser (see page one) to the state of Colorado for creating a P3 for the over $1 billion improvement to I-70.

Honor and privilege

During the last years of Muriel Harrison’s life, Bill Harrison would greet me at the door and then tell her who had come to visit — Muriel had been blind for several years. He would say, “It is my honor and privilege to take care of her.” Usually, we expect to read about a wife caring for an aging husband until his last days. But Bill Harrison was unusual.

One night in 2006, I waited for a new batch of writers to come to my door for a “Writing Stories” class I was presenting in our family room. The first arrival that evening was an elderly gentleman who sat parked in my driveway a good 20 minutes early. I motioned him to come on in, and although he’d grown stoop-shouldered in his 87 years, Bill was still several inches taller than I. He lived on the east side of town, he said, and often arrived at meetings early to beat the trains.

That night, Bill related the story of how his grandfather John H. Wolfe had given him his Civil War diary when Bill was 5. Now he asked me to help him create a book out of that diary. Of course, I agreed and asked for more background. And over the next few months, I read Bill’s drafts and gave him encouragement, although how much effect I had was debatable. We often laughed that I’d had to forgo any attempt to change his writing style to the active voice; he wrote beautifully in the passive.

The result was Bill’s 200-page historical tome, One Man’s War: Tired ’till the Day I Die, based upon memoirs of John H. Wolfe, Company F, 8th Michigan Volunteers, 1861-1864. Bill’s preface concludes with this sentence: “I am merely trying to show my amazement that Grampa Wolfe survived the ordeal of the Civil War physically and still landed on his feet mentally.”

Bill and Muriel had taken a year off and traveled to every one of Grampa Wolfe’s 47 battle sites. And that night chatting in my living room, he recounted many battles that had taken place in my home state of Virginia. He and Muriel had stopped at every silver metal sign designating battles and Lee’s retreat from Richmond along the “old Danville road,” today’s Route 360. I’d driven the length of that highway hundreds of times and never stopped.

The presentation of history in Bill’s tome is unique. For each battle, he presented two perspectives: the overall view by the generals who set the stage; and Grampa Wolfe’s view of the foot soldiers at ground level, the men who suffered death and hardship, assuredly no glory.

Bill later transcribed the diary into Memoirs of John H. Wolfe. Bill’s son gave a copy of this book to a board of directors building a museum dedicated to volunteer soldiers of all the wars of this country. Civil War experts have authenticated Grampa Wolfe’s memoirs, and the board will feature him and his unit in the museum. Out of 100 Company F volunteers, he was one of the eight to survive.

Last year, Dr. Bill attended meetings of the Civil War History discussion group at the Longmont library. We would meet there, and I gave him a few rides home. His slideshow presentation of Grampa Wolfe’s battles will long be remembered by that group. Bill later made copies of his transcription of the diary and gave them to members. They hold a treasure, a legacy handed down in 1924.

Many people will remember Dr. Bill as their family veterinarian, others for his beautiful marquetry. He was a kind and humble man who deflected praise. But I will always cherish those visits and hearing him say it was his honor and privilege to take care of Muriel.

Bill Ellis is a local author who can be reached at contact@billelliswrites.com.

The “n-word” is offensive and reeks of disrespect

One day when I was 4 years old, I ran to answer the knock on our front door. My goal was to get there before Tessie, our black maid and my day-care provider. It was 1945 in my hometown of Martinsville, Va., close to the North Carolina state line.

What happened next is burned into my memory. I opened the door to face a snarly white man who towered above me. “Whar’s your folks, boy?” he growled. Tessie got there to save me and pushed me behind her.

“They’re not here,” she answered.

“Wasn’t talking to you, n-,” and out spilled that vile and vicious word, dripping with so much hate it scared me. Tessie slammed the door in his face and went into the living room, where she sat and cried.

I was shocked and completely confused about how that one word could so upset my best pal, the woman who cared for me, who loved me. So I asked her what it meant.

“Don’t ever say it,” she said. “It’s what mean people say when they want to hurt us colored folks.”

And so it remains. Over the last eight years or so, I have been reminded that angry, ignorant white people and even some African-Americans continue to toss that word around like a hand grenade. It is the ultimate degradation to a race of people. How do I know this? I saw it on Tessie’s face in 1945. I saw her reduced to miserable tears. And I get an occasional message from an old friend back in Virginia who just doesn’t think our African-American president is real — code for less than human.

I admit I used to feel superior to the typical bigots down South, those uneducated folks stereotyped as automatically prejudiced just because of their accent and useless arguments bemoaning the “lost cause” of the Civil War. But then I discovered an ancestor in North Carolina in the 1700s who had slaves. It was clearly there in his will that charged his son to sell some land to buy a slave to care for his wife after his death.

Yet here we are, 250 years later, still without a clue. As an almost fanatically religious country, too many of us do not live our values and follow the golden rule to treat people like we want to be treated. Shamefully, we don’t even see a connection between going to church and practicing brotherly love the other six days of the week.

My Latino friend, Dan, reminded me the other day that the Army teaches equal rights. All soldiers depend on everyone. There is no place for racial, religious, and sexual orientation prejudice in the military. So maybe the solution is to put everyone through basic training.

Better, though, is for everyone to stand up for speaking with respect. Next time somebody throws out that word, call time out. Correct them. Let them know it is offensive to all of us because the word reeks of disrespect. My friend Dan knows that today that word and the bigotry it holds disrespects African-Americans, the next day Latinos, and then on to women, gays and lesbians, and everyone else.

I must add this: The maddest I ever saw my mother was when President Clinton’s political nominees were being disqualified because they hadn’t paid Social Security taxes for their nannies. “Did you pay Tessie’s?” I stupidly inquired.

“I certainly did,” she answered in a huff, and gave me one of those withering looks that showed she doubted I had a grain of sense. I’d forgotten the day she took me to visit Tessie after I’d graduated from college. Mom’s reason: “She thinks you’re as much hers as I think you’re mine.”

Bill Ellis (contact@billelliswrites.com) lives in Longmont.

The ‘Serious’ Generation

Bill Ellis

Bill Ellis – billelliswrites.com

Over tea and conversation at Ziggi’s on Francis Street, my friend, Bob Dacey, proposed a re-branding of our generation from “Silent” to “Serious.”

And why not? There are now more branded generations than could possibly fit in a century: The Greatest, Multitasking, Millennial, X and Boomer, Silver Tsunami. But none of those fit Bob and me. Together we have more years, over 150, than hair. And neither of us is silent. We have been writing and speaking out for a long time, as have others in our generation.

The problem is with those who should be listening. Here’s an example: To us, the “nuclear option” does not mean changing the rules of the U.S. Senate to a simple majority vote for approval. Members of the Serious Generation recall the Cold War days when choosing the nuclear option meant mutually assured destruction (MAD). Returning to a simple majority rule vote means getting back to mutual respect in Congress where both the majority and minority parties can cooperate to conduct the business of governing. The overwhelming need for changing rules was angrily acknowledged by Republican Speaker of the House Boehner when he finally blew up at the Tea Party. Reason? Those representatives had already denounced a bipartisan budget proposal without even reading the bill.

Realize the Tea Party’s goal has been lucid from the start: block governing; do not cooperate. Thus, there are no members of this loud minority in our recently re-branded Serious Generation. Speaker Boehner is hoist on his own petard.

It was just fine for the minority members of his faction-bound party to block governing as long as the result was perceived as damaging Democrats. But now the blowback threatens Republicans in the run-up to next year’s election. So Speaker Boehner does not qualify for membership in our Serious Generation either, as long as he sticks to his own failed strategy now belching backfires.

Here’s the truth: Generation S respects the ebb and flow of power from one party to the other. We know that’s how our system is supposed to work. That’s healthier than absolute power controlled by one faction for too long, and we’ve been around long enough to see it. Here’s the awful truth: While our generation is criticized for hogging resources — the euphemism is entitlements — like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, the governing class (generation “G”?) has captured benefits for itself and is aligned with big money to ensure its continuation in power. The bottom line: The evidence is overwhelming. There is no sharing in our economy, only the continuing rise of profits and wealth to the top.

The shame in our economic system is this: When citizens seek their fair share they are immediately branded as liberals demanding redistribution of wealth. It is the vilest conundrum spun by lobbyists to define sharing wealth as socialism.

As the great leader, Mandela, is lauded for his reconciliation and forgiveness, snapshots of poverty in South Africa continue to remain solely of black settlements. As conservative columnists continue to deprecate proposals to raise the minimum wage, more and more Americans fall below the poverty line. Why? Because interrupting the flow of money to the top is anathema to our profit-centered economy.

I’ll let Bob explain it: “It is inevitable that all community values will be tested and measured in economic terms and in a business-like way. However, not all human qualities and personal values have a dollar sign attached to them. Sometimes the right action is not the most cost-effective. Sometimes the smartest choice does not have a price tag. We devalue the human spirit when every human transaction is reduced to a business contract.” — Robert Dacey.

Longmont resident Bill Ellis is the author of “Paradigm Shift.”

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