Longmont

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.

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“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.”

reply to contact@billelliswrites.com

Coal for those who play Santa only for the already rich

Congratulations to those secret Santas, Cory Gardner, Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton and Doug Lamborn for not passing the unemployment extension. That will show those 1.3 million slackers not to sponge off the government. Of course our secret Santas wouldn’t look at a jobs bill to get some of them off of unemployment. We can’t have that now could we? They also voted to cut $40 billion from food stamps for 3.4 million, seniors, veterans and children, half of the group. Let’s fire the janitors and let the kids get jobs cleaning the school bathrooms. Let’s not cut any corporate welfare though, ConAgra and Big Oil must have it to survive and contribute to our heroes.

They couldn’t afford to spend $25 billion on unemployment, but didn’t bat an eye at wasting $26 billion on a government shutdown that accomplished nothing.

Why should these lazy people get a couple hundred a week unemployment or $1.45 a meal for food stamps when Congress only gets $174,000 a year for working a whole two or three days a week. This is the most unproductive Congress in history. It makes Harry Truman’s “Do Nothing” Congress look like a dynamo. Congratulations again for seeing that all those slackers and never-do-wells get what they deserve while you have your turkey and ham with all the trimmings. Maybe that will teach them to get off their dead south ends and work hard like you in Congress. By the way, why is your approval rating at a huge 9 per cent?

Coloradans eye rulings around country in favor of local fracking bans

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John Tomasic – first published on The Colorado Independent December 23, 2013

BOULDER — Supporters of local bans on the oil-and-gas drilling process known as fracking celebrated a key legal victory in Pennsylvania last week, where the state supreme court ruled unconstitutional a law that sought to override local zoning initiatives in the state.

Colorado, like Pennsylvania — and states like California, New York and Ohio — is the site of a tug of war between state and local communities over drilling regulations. In the last two years, five Colorado towns on the heavily drilled northern Front Range have passed bans on fracking, drawing lawsuits from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association lobby group that have been either officially or tacitly supported by the state. The Association’s suit against the city of Longmont is scheduled to be heard this summer.

The news from Pennsylvania spread quickly over social networks in Colorado.

If the Colorado Oil and Gas Association cannot be persuaded to drop the lawsuits that seek to undo the results of fair elections, then we hope and expect Colorado courts to similarly recognize the rights of voters and respect the principle of local control,” said Our Broomfield, an anti-fracking group that passed a ban in that city in November.

“In Colorado, cities and towns should have the right to use zoning laws to protect the public from the toxic industrial process of drilling and fracking,” said Clean Water Action spokesman Gary Wockner. “We are optimistic that Colorado will follow Pennsylvania in allowing local control for local governments.”

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method of extraction where millions of gallons of water are mixed with chemicals and sand and blasted through drill holes deep into the earth to break up rock formations and loosen gas. Although the oil and gas industry has conducted fracking operations for 60 years, new horizontal methods have greatly increased the effectiveness of the process and have spurred a major drilling boom gas fields around the country.

Thousands of wells now dot the Wattenberg field in north-eastern Colorado. Bloomberg News reports oil-and-gas production has hit half-century record highs in Colorado. Trucks move equipment and frack fluid across great agricultural stretches north of Denver day and night but also increasingly through the region’s cities, towns and subdivisions, setting up drill pads in backyards and next to schools and apartment complexes. Site drilling goes on for months at a time, nonstop, filling neighborhoods with lights and noise twenty four hours a day. Residents have grown increasingly concerned over possible threats posed to health, safety and the environment and they have watched the value of their homes drop.

In Colorado, bans on fracking have so far passed in Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins and Lafayette in addition to the first ban passed in Longmont. The Colorado initiatives join a movement across the U.S., where more than 380 local bans have passed according to Food and Water Watch. Governor John Hickenlooper has opposed the bans. He says he’s sympathetic to residents but that it is the state’s responsibility to regulate the oil and gas industry, which he believes would be hobbled if drillers had to navigate a patchwork of varied local rules and regulations.

The ruling in Pennsylvania comes as the Ohio Supreme Court weighs a similar case. Two courts in New York have decided in favor of local regulations on drilling and the New York Supreme Court may soon take up the question.

Monkeywrenching Elections

Recalls solely because of votes on one issue are an abuse of the system. We have elections to reject candidates that we do not agree with. Almost every legislator has voted against majority public opinion at least once. Gun legislation is supported by the majority of the public nationwide as reported in Monday’s Times-Call and a poll by the conservative Wall Street Journal.

The writer claims that he wants legislators to vote their constituents’ point of view. If this is what the recall supporters wanted, they would not have gone to court to eliminate mail-in ballots. If mail-in ballots were used, the turnout would not have been greater and the outcome likely would have been different. To have public views dominate, you must have as many voters participate as possible.

The writer complained about outside money from Michael Bloomberg. To be fair, he should have recognized the money from the NRA, which can in large part be traced back to gun manufacturers and NRA members from around the country. A visit to Pueblo would have shown trucks with enormous amount of anti-gun law materials, camped in front of big box stores.

The discussion over gun control and gun rights needs to be balanced. I admit that my thinking is somewhat biased because my cousin was murdered by a person with a handgun. As the parent of a deceased son, I am torn with every death of a child.

In the past, the NRA has supported background checks. Why laws that require background checks at stores but not at gun shows? That combination is worse than useless, as it gives the impression that something has been done.

Responsible gun advocates, of whom there are many, talk about keeping guns away from the mentally ill and convicted criminals. How do you do this without background checks that are effective?

There are many responsible gun owners. Their cause can be helped by increasing efforts to have other gun owners train for safety and keep their firearms where children and unstable individuals cannot access them.

I discount claims that gun owners will have their guns taken away even if the carnage continues to increase. Most law enforcement personnel would not participate. Despite my angst around the proliferation of guns that seem to serve little purpose for community members, I do not support taking legitimate guns away from individuals other than from those who commit crimes using a firearm.

As far as promoting recalls for legislators who vote in opposition to their constituents, I assume that is for issues where the majority of constituents have views, if not strongly held convictions, in opposition to a legislator’s vote on any given issue. That will often lead to a situation where the legislator has voted at times with public opinion and times against.

If we want to recall elected legislators, we can start with Rep. Cory Gardner. Cory voted to shut down the government a few months back. He just this month voted against the strongly supported budget compromise. These are not widely popular votes, especially for those who were financially hurt by the shutdown. To quote House Speaker John Boehner, whose remarks were aimed at tea party congressmen such as Mr. Gardner: “Are you kidding me?”

It appears that Mr. Gardner is also opposed to a path to citizenship for undocumented residents, which the majority of U.S. voters support. We are not sure, because he and his staff are not providing definitive answers and he has not been consistent about his position.

If, as I surmise, Colorado voters are more worried about disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters in order to find a handful of people voting when they are not entitled to (extremely small examples of voter fraud have been documented in all states that have passed or tried to pass voter suppression laws), then should Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler be recalled?

What about hydraulic fracturing? Should an elected official be recalled if she/he votes in opposition to public desires? Of course that depends on which city or county you live in or whether wells are located close to your home. This could lead to some legislators being recalled for supporting fracking bans and other for opposing fracking bans. In any case, I would be more apt to recall legislators who are not being truthful about this or any other issue.

Local Pastors, Boulder Church Choose Love Over Church Law

Rev. Frank Schaefer - 2013

Rev. Frank Schaefer – 2013

Between us we have over 70 years of ordained ministry within the United Methodist Church. We have faced our share of challenges but have known still more joys within our congregations and communities. Our social justice involvements have been as near as sleeping outdoors in support of homeless youth next door, as far away as fighting apartheid in South Africa, and in many, many struggles for justice and liberation in places in between. During the recent floods in Colorado, we personally felt the concrete blessing of being part of a connectional church that reaches out to support one another and the community. We treasure the power of compassion when 12 million United Methodists worldwide unite to carry the love of God into the world.

At the same time nothing has saddened, embarrassed and angered us more than witnessing United Methodist institutional leaders fall horribly short of implementing Jesus’ call to radical inclusion and love when it comes to our LGBTQ sisters and the brothers. A story recently printed in the Daily Camera (“Church defrocks Methodist pastor for officiating gay son’s wedding” December 19, 2013) provided an accurate account of the painful decades long internal struggle that deeply divides our international church. We are on the side that affirms God loves us all and that we love God best by loving others. Along with hundreds of other clergy and congregations in the United States, we have worked in many ways to help our denomination recognize and correct the sin of its institutional bigotry. We will continue that internal denominational campaign to move from excluding some on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identification to cherishing each and every one of us as beloved children of God. This is the work of reconciliation. It is important.

To us, and the members and friends of First United Methodist Church of Boulder, what is even more important than the internal institutional struggles of our denomination, is our commitment to continue living in faithful obedience to the Biblical story of God’s unconditional love for all. Together with our congregation we will do this within the Boulder community and beyond.

This means, first and foremost, that we will continue declaring God’s acceptance of and delight in all of God’s children. It means we hope and expect that the most recent commitment service between two loving women that our congregation blessed this fall will continue in the line of many such celebrations. It means we will continue to open our doors and arms, our hearts and communion table to LGBTQ individuals in just the same way we do to all others. You can count on it.

Undeniably, this is a challenging time for the United Methodist institution. But for First United Methodist Church of Boulder, and for hundreds of clergy and congregations across the United States, we feel anchored in following the path of Jesus, which informs and dictates our actions. Our commitment to living out God’s love in the world blazes as strong as ever.

Rev. Pat Bruns and Rev. Joe Agne
First United Methodist Church of Boulder

Last Refuge

One year ago, incensed and insulted by the culture of guns in this nation which found every possible excuse to rationalize the murders in Newtown, I wrote of the obscenity of the NRA and what it has wrought on behalf of its benefactors, the gun industry. Today, little  if anything has changed as once again the NRA manages to muzzle its opponents.

At one point I considered the option of ceding  the battle to the NRA and opting for a far greater emphasis on intervention from mental health experts. I still believe in this approach, but now as I watch the developing story of yet another schoolboy shoot-up – (Arrapahoe HS in Colorado), my outrage returns again to the culture; the how and why this nation finds itself -alone in the world of developed countries, gripped in the steel hands of a lobbying group, and how fear-mongering, money, lies and outright propaganda have brought us to this shameful state.

The 2nd Amendment has been argued in courts and town meetings, bars and kitchens  for decades. The definition of “Militia” is battered about but finds resolution in the minds of those already decided. Missing in most of these debates are the qualifiers; “Well regulated”. The NRA is MIA in this forum, for what sane person would ever believe that the 300 million or so firearms wandering around are in the hands of any entity reasonably considered “Well regulated”?

It’s time I believe to challenge the NRA. Remembering the words of Samuel Johnson; “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”,  I would argue that by wrapping itself in Old Glory the NRA- along with millions of dollars from the gun industry, has shaped the debate. If any evidence to this claim is needed, recall the words of a mother whose child recently killed himself with a family revolver; “We are proud  gun owners”.  To which I add; “Of a dead child”- a cruel addition which needs to be said, for I am beyond euphemisms.

That many in this country can be easily persuaded (if not brain washed) through the medium of TV is a known fact to those whose task it is to manipulate public opinion. The hundreds of millions spent on TV ads during political campaigns provides ample proof that money can change minds.

The NRA is nothing more and nothing less than a lobbying group. If guns in  America suddenly disappeared, they could as easily turn to supporting the ketchup industry. Their tugs at the heart-strings of those who believe that freedom is protected by a Bushmaster in the hands of a little old lady are obscene lies. If any sober citizen believes that he or she can protect against “Them” coming to take away their weapon, or that their weapon can defend the nation, they should go visit a military base to determine just how much protection that Bushmaster might provide.

One hundred and ninety seven children have been shot and killed since Newtown, most of them with weapons inside the houses of proud gun owners. Perhaps had they been slaughtered en masse a point might have been made and just possibly the NRA might have been gelded. But such was not the case and as the months go by more innocent blood will drip as proud gun owners mourn.

At what point – and how high the count – do proud gun owners realize they are victims of what is probably the most successful scam in this nation’s history? In a Stars and Stripes bedecked NRA convention in 2000, Charlton (Moses) Heston’s famous cry resounded; “They would have to pry it from my cold dead hands”. All very stirring – and equally ludicrous, but a culture shaped by a lobbying group bought it, echoed it, and proclaimed a new mantra. By the way, “They” were never identified,

It’s time for responsible citizens to take back their own security and the safety of their children. Reign in the NRA, demand stiff background checks, limit magazine size and ban assault weapons.

Reflect on Sam Johnson’s words, look into your heart and begin to realize what’s happening to this country we all so dearly love.

Give Peace a Chance


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The U.S. has often resorted to military means as a way of settling disputes with far weaker nations during the last fifty years. Frequently these attacks have been unwarranted as well as violations of international law. U.S. attacks on Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Serbia and Iraq (2003) are a few examples of these illegal conflicts.

We are currently fighting in Afghanistan and illegally using drones to kill in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. After long years of fighting and losing wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. public is fed up with senseless conflicts. This point was made clear recently by the huge public outcry against illegally bombing Syria.

Besides the millions it killed and the incredible destruction it wreaked on far weaker nations, the U.S. has incurred costs as well. Tens of thousands of U.S, soldiers were killed and hundreds of thousands more were wounded. The families of these physically and/or mentally/emotionally wounded veterans continue to pay an enormous and incalculable  price. These unnecessary campaigns cost trillions of dollars, money that could have been far better used domestically to improve the real security of our people. The bottom line is that these wars have been counterproductive, increasing the hatred towards the U.S. and decreasing ours and the world’s security.

Thus it is not surprising at all that there was tremendous public relief here at home and worldwide about the interim agreement negotiated in Geneva and signed on November 24th between Iran and the P5+1 nations (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). This agreement essentially calls for a short-term freeze on some of Iran’s nuclear enrichment programs in exchange for some very limited relief from economic sanctions, including allowing Iran access to a pittance of its own money held in other countries. The goal is a permanent agreement that will greatly reduce the threat to world peace.

Despite widespread relief and praise for the deal, unsurprisingly, there are some hardliners in Iran, the U.S. and Israel who expressed opposition. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was particularly vociferous in his condemnation of the deal, and Israeli officials did not rule out an illegal Israeli attack on Iran during the next six months. Interestingly, Israeli President Peres had a somewhat different reaction. According to a CNN article, Peres said: “This is an interim deal. The success or failure of the deal will be judged by results, not by words.”

Netanyahu and his U.S. Congressional supporters continue to hammer on the disputed idea of an existential threat to Israel of an Iranian nuclear weapon. They somehow manage to ignore assessments by U.S., Israeli and British intelligence agencies that Iran currently does not have a nuclear weapons program. This has been the conclusion of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate since 2007 and was reiterated in testimony to Congress in 2011 and 2012. The Estimate said that Iran stopped it nuclear weapons program in 2003.

The assessment added that Iran has the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon eventually, making the central issue the political will to do so. Regarding the political will, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa saying the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons was forbidden under Islam.

Numerous U.S. and Israeli military and political leaders think that a military attack on Iran would be unsuccessful and would drive Iran to build nuclear weapons to defend itself. The Friends Committee on National Legislation has compiled many quotes on this point and the insanity of an attack at http://fcnl.org.

One quote from the above site by Meir Dagan, former head of Israel’s Mossad, captures the sense of these officials. In a 2011 article he said: “[Attacking Iran is] ‘the stupidest thing I have ever heard…It will be followed by a war with Iran. It is the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end.”

If we want to stop another insane, counterproductive, illegal, unwarranted and costly conflict, tell Congress that it must not enact more sanctions on Iran, sanctions that would suggest the U.S. is not negotiating in good faith. Continuing Congressional support of Netanyahu harms U.S. interests.

2013 Longmont election big win for Progressives

Dennis Coombs, Mayor of Longmont

Dennis Coombs, Mayor of Longmont

Monday November 11th the City Council members for Longmont were sworn in – among them returning mayor Dennis Coombs. Here’s our photos.

Two new members were also sworn in –

Polly Christensen

Polly Christensen

Polly Christensen replaced Alex Sammoury and Jeff Moore replaced Katie Witt, both winning handily – no recounts this year.

Coombs sailed to victory with a 16% (Correction – 17.84%) margin over his opponent Bryan Baum, breaking out early with a large lead that Baum never managed to match, despite running scandal-free this time around. A push poll of unknown origin may actually have hurt the right-wing candidate by attempting to spread scurrilous rumors and deeply offending voters.

Jeff Moore

Jeff Moore

Sammoury and Witt were pleasant and appeared to be relieved at leaving City Council. Alex said he’d ‘…try and miss them…’ on Tuesday evenings, clearly being ironic. Witt pronounced ‘…you haven’t seen the last of me…’ and was greeting by laughter from the audience.

Well, I suppose we can hope

StephBaumTweets_111213Despite pronouncements from the right that Longmont is a ‘conservative’ town, the ‘left’ ran off two conservative candidates and defeated a tea party ex-mayor decisively. An obviously-planned kerfuffle over a months-old crabby note from Polly Christensen was clearly the Baum’s payback for being ‘pooched‘ in the last election. Super-classy for Abbondanza owner Bob Goff to not only save the note, but put it in the hands of Longmont’s First ‘Lady’ of muck-raking, who cackled gleefully about it. Love how she’s eager to see a fellow Longmonter in the ‘poor house’ – kinda clashes with her sweet, fundraiser persona…

Polly had this to say about her note to Goff:

“Usually Abondanza is my son’s and my favorite place for pizza, wine, and Parchesi. I was exhaused and was feeling a bit accosted by politics at a place where I was hoping to relax and NOT think about politics. I overreacted to the signs in the window and the political stickers on my leftover box. I wrote this cranky note on a scrap of paper. It was ill-considered, harsh, and unnecessary. I regret not just walking away and getting some sleep.”

Longmont's self-proclaimed 'First Lady'

Longmont’s self-proclaimed ‘First Lady’

Interesting tweet about the ‘Old Guard’… and the Pro-Tem vote was planned…? Really?

So, all in all a very interesting night and terrifically revealing of how deep the wounds of the last election were and how badly the right wanted revenge – any revenge.

Eyes of the Nation on Colorado Towns’ Fracking Fight

Published on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 by Common Dreams

‘Industry across the nation is looking to see what Colorado voters are going to do.’

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Coloradoans picket frack-friendly Governor John Hickenlooper in Longmont, Colorado. (Photo: FreeRangeLongmont.com/ cc/ Flickr)

Coloradoans picket frack-friendly Governor John Hickenlooper in Longmont, Colorado. (Photo: FreeRangeLongmont.com/ cc/ Flickr)

In what many are calling the new “ground zero” in the national fight against fracking, the toxic gas and oil extracting process is on the ballot in four Colorado towns where citizens are taking on the heavyweights of the fossil fuel industry.

Following the example of Longmont, which last year became the first Colorado city to ban fracking, next Wednesday, voters in Boulder, Broomfield, Lafayette and Fort Collins will have the opportunity to choose whether or not they support the controversial extraction method of shale oil and gas in their communities.

The Denver Business Journal provides this rundown of the four ballot measures:

  • Broomfield: Question 300 would impose a five-year prohibition on all fracking.
  • Fort Collins: Its measure would create a five-year moratorium on fracking and storage of waste products related to the oil and gas industry in town.
  • City of Boulder: 2H proposes a five-year moratorium on oil and gas exploration.
  • Lafayette: Question No. 300 would ban new oil and gas wells in town. [As well as] prohibit “depositing, storing or transporting within city limits any water, brine, chemical or by-products used in or that result from extraction of oil and gas.”

Though local ballot initiatives, these are no small-town battles. According to reports, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) has poured over $600,000 into campaigns against the moratoriums.

“The oil and gas industry is trying to intimidate voters by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy this election,” Laura Fronckiewicz, campaign manager for the pro-moratorium group Our Broomfield, told Denver Westword.

Among those industry insiders who are concerned that the success of these local initiatives could spell trouble for the future of fracking in the west, Tim Wigley, president of oil and gas trade group Western Energy Alliance, said, “I’ve really beat the drum with our members […] across the West about how dangerous a precedent these could be if they become law.”

“The whole country is looking at Colorado as ground zero.” The state, he added, “has been traditionally a big-time [energy] producer, and the industry across the nation is looking to see what Colorado voters are going to do.”

Three of the four initiatives propose a temporary ban on the process which, according to Fronckiewicz, will allow researchers more time to determine fracking’s “true effects” on residents’ health and the environment.

Colorado’s history as an energy-producing state where landowners’ mineral rights are often owned by commercial entities compound the challenges faced by these grassroots initiatives.

The City of Longmont—where last November nearly 60 percent of voters approved an amendment that prohibited fracking and the disposal of fracking waste products within city limits—is currently facing suits by both the COGA and the state.

Those suits, however, have not succeeded in deterring others from taking up their own fight against Big Oil and Gas.

“People on Colorado’s Front Range enjoy their quality of life and this industry represents an immediate threat to public health and that quality of life,” Cliff Willmeng of the activist group East Boulder County United told the Denver Post. “People see that the question of the environment is not an abstraction—it’s something we’re living through now.”