Longmont

2013 Colorado Legislature: on the right track with successes

Colorado Capitol dome. Photo by Charles Hanson.

Colorado Capitol dome. Photo by Charles Hanson.

While our national political leaders continue to be embroiled in gridlock at virtually every turn, our state legislators accomplished a great deal this past session. Although the bulk of the political media coverage has been on fringe issues (guns and rural Colorado), lawmakers were focused on jobs, schools, child welfare, voter and civil rights, immigration and the environment. Colorado is a better place to live, learn, love, work and raise children because of the 2013 legislative session.

Here are just 10 of dozens of good bills Democratic majorities in both houses achieved in 120 days:

  1. The ASSET Bill. Colorado’s undocumented students who graduate from high schools will now pay the same in-state college tuition rate as their peers. People with college degrees break the poverty cycle, help strengthen our economy, vote, contribute more to the tax base and are less likely to be in the corrections system.
  2. Making voting easier by sending all voters mail-in ballots. This bill will save counties $4.9 million over the next two years by making elections more efficient.
  3. Legalized civil unions, allowing thousands of committed same-sex couples to have critical legal protections and responsibilities. By recognizing civil unions, Colorado will see its revenue grow by nearly $5 million over the next three years.
  4. Increased tax credits to struggling families to help with medical and child care expenses. The benefits of this bill are self-explanatory.
  5. Limiting high-capacity magazines from 30 to 15 rounds and requiring universal background checks for gun sales. Legally purchased high-capacity magazines were used in both the Aurora Theater and Newtown school shootings. Universal background checks will make every Colorado resident safer.
  6. Reforming the way Colorado contracts business. In 2010-2011 alone, Colorado signed contracts with out-of-state vendors in the amount of $794 million. This bill brings our tax dollars back to our state while focusing on wages and benefits for workers as important considerations.
  7. The Colorado Clean Renewable Energy Bill will create good-paying jobs in rural areas while providing new sources of clean wind and solar energy.
  8. Allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s training and licenses. This law makes Colorado fairer and safer. It reduces our insurance rates because of fewer uninsured motorists and also saves public resources in court time for driving without a license or insurance.
  9. Creating sex ed programs in the schools that are medically accurate and provide age-appropriate information on birth control, abstinence, healthy relationships and disease prevention. This bill will reduce teen child bearing in Colorado, which costs taxpayers and society dearly.
  10. Colorado’s 16- and 17-year-olds can now preregister to vote when getting their driver’s licenses. This good-for-democracy bill will increase civic responsibilities/participation, reduce voter registration errors and save on form processing.

Good things are happening in Colorado thanks to our state legislators. In and around Longmont, this includes Reps. Jonathan Singer and Mike Foote and Sens. Matt Jones and Rollie Heath. We elect people to lead and get stuff done. Our current slate of Colorado legislators is doing just that.

End Hunger Now Boulder! Screens the Film “A Place at the Table”

Attention Homes (AH) and First United Methodist Church of Boulder (FUMC) to screen Participant Media’s A Place at the Table on August 18th as part of END HUNGER NOW BOULDER! event.

Why are almost 50 million Americans hungry, and why are more than 23.5 million kids and teenagers overweight or obese (and sometimes hungry, too)? What triggers and connects these trends? What systems and institutions perpetuate food insecurity, and what reforms will ensure that people get the healthy food they need? In an effort to engage Boulder and Colorado in a conversation about these questions, AH and FUMC along with several local organizations engaged in fighting hunger, invite local residents to take their place in the fight to end hunger and ensure that all children and families have access to healthy, affordable foods.

AH and FUMC along with Hunger Free Colorado, No Kid Hungry Colorado, EFAA, Community Food Share, Boulder Food Rescue, Harvest of Hope Pantry, Bridge House and Cooking Matters and in association with Participant Media and Active Voice, will host a community screening of A Place at the Table in Boulder on August 18th. The screening is part of Participant Media’s “Take Your Place” Social Action Campaign, which uses the acclaimed documentary to inspire community conversations about hunger and obesity and get people involved in efforts to address this systemic problem. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, communities across the country will be hosting such events throughout the summer and fall.

The critically acclaimed documentary A Place at the Table, directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush, examines the crisis of food security, hunger, obesity and food access. The film will be screened at First United Methodist Church of Boulder at 1421 Spruce Street starting at 6:00 pm.  The screening will be immediately followed by a panel discussion featuring local experts working to alleviate hunger including Lee Wheeler-Berliner, Deputy Director at Hunger Free Colorado, Karla Maraccini, Director of Community Partnerships with the Office of Governor John W Hickenlooper, Frank Alexander, Director of Boulder County Department of Housing & Human Services, Audrey DeBroux, EFAA’s Basic Needs Casework Manager and Hana Dansky, Executive Director of Boulder Food Rescue.

“There are 39,000 people in Boulder County who are food insecure and 17% of the kids in our community lack access to enough food for a healthy life,” says Jim Rianoshek, Executive Director of Attention Homes, the only youth shelter in Boulder County. “We see youth struggling each day to find the resources to pay for a nutritious meal. As a health-conscious community, we can do better by those in need and sharing this important film will educate and hopefully inspire action.

FUMC Senior Pastor Pat Bruns adds that “The statistics of hunger and poverty are not simply numbers but rather they are people, living, breathing, struggling, suffering people.  They are people we see every day in Boulder, in Longmont, in Louisville, in Lafayette, in Niwot, in Superior, in Broomfield, in Nederland … in all our neighborhoods. As we begin to look at the issue of hunger in our communities may we also begin to look more closely at the faces of those that struggle with hunger every day.  We intend to work together with our community partners to make sure all of our neighbors have enough to eat.”

If you are interested in attending the screening, tickets will be available at the door and are available online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/421230 or contact us at 303.442.3770. Tickets are $5.00 and donations of healthy foods will be collected at the event.

ABOUT THE FILM

In Participant Media’s A Place at the Table, a Magnolia Pictures release, directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine the issue of hunger in America through the lens of three people struggling with food insecurity: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her and has trouble concentrating in school; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford.

Ultimately, A Place at the Table shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation, and that it could be solved once and for all, if the American public decides — as they have in the past — that making healthy food available and affordable is in the best interest of us all.

ABOUT ATTENTION HOMES
Since 1966 Attention Homes has provided opportunities for youth in crisis to change their lives. We offer safe shelter, meals, community-based living and teaching of life skills necessary for an independent future. Attention Homes operates the only shelter for youth in Boulder County. Learn more at www.attentionhomes.org.

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 www.fumcboulder.org and at facebook.com/fumcboulder.

Current economy: unsustainable, unreasonable, unfair

Mind those teeth...

Mind those teeth…

To paraphrase: It is hard to drain the swamp when you are up to your waist in alligators. Much of what we try to address will not in the end be successful unless we deal with root causes. We need to beat off the alligators but this will never end unless we drain the swamp.

Income and wealth disparities have been growing at an alarming rate. Many, including some in Congress, speak out against food stamps and other assistance for the poor (Cory Gardner just voted to discontinue funding food stamps). If workers were paid a living wage, wages were not routinely stolen from workers and corporations would not trim costs by cutting workers, expecting remaining salaried workers to make up the slack, while paying hugely inappropriate salaries and bonuses to top management and board members, there would be less need for assistance.

Eventually, the huge and increasing disparity in earnings and wealth will come back to bite the corporations. Low pay results in less purchasing power for many millions. This reduces sales tax collection, also hurting local governments. Low pay leads to poverty and homelessness. It leads to discouraged portions of the populations. Unemployment among the young leads to crime.

The same people who voted down food stamps and other food assistance while funding large agriculture support tax breaks to big oil at a time when big oil is making incredible profits, while denying small incremental financial support for renewable energy, also brought us Citizens United. The same party continues, in the face of Supreme Court rulings to the contrary, with attempts to make it less likely that minorities, the elderly and some rural citizens will be able to vote (Scott Gessler continues to mislead us on the number of non-citizens voting while proposing to make it more difficult for thousands of citizens to vote.)

The Republican Party should be just as worried as the Democrat Party about Citizens United. Recently the Chinese government offered to buy a large U.S. food processing company. The press talks about worries that the Chinese will reduce food safety. The real concern is that as an owner of a U.S. corporation, the Chinese government will be able to support candidates of their choosing and influence elections and thus laws without having to disclose their hand in this misguided gift from the Bush court.

Historically the robber barons, mining companies, large manufactures, etc., mistreated employees and developed monopolies. Thanks to unions and an informed public, the worst of these abuses were stopped. Unfortunately, income and wage disparity has become a huge crisis. The very wealthy control too much of the wealth and thus power. Greed runs rampant. Every effort seems to be made to receive bigger and bigger portions of the pie at the expense of the many, first the poor and now the middle class. Even athletes and other entertainers fight for obscene salaries while educators, law enforcement and medical professions fall back in real buying power.

Gone are the days when a single salary could provide a comfortable lifestyle. It is not a bad thing that talented people can make more than an average earning, but when taken to an extreme this is not in the interest of collective society. Very high salaries come at the expense of poorly paid workers, workers who need two jobs even with a working spouse to make ends meet.

Too much money from relatively few sources influences elections in a way that defeats the concept of one person one vote. Politicians are frequently unduly influenced by large contributors and special interests group such as big oil, pharmaceuticals and the NRA. These groups spend huge amounts on lobbyists. We have legislators in Washington, D.C., who fight for weapons that the military says its doesn’t need and doesn’t want. We allow pharmaceutical companies to practice “Pay for Delay,” whereby they pay other companies to not produce and sell generics at a lower price. We pay, insurance companies pay and Medicare pays more. This also goes against the basic tenants of patent law.

This is not about a liberal agenda. This is about a better America. It is about living up to our values. It is about long-term sustainability of our economic system. Look around at the unrest in other countries. While there are several reasons for unrest, a good deal of the energy comes from disparity in wealth that leaves many with bare subsistence and little hope for anything better for them or their children.

Governments turned vicious

728931_35025540-have-a-doubt

Really? REALLY?

The Coloradoan published an article on July 16, 2013, that contains some of the most offensive attacks on Colorado citizens that officials of government have leveled – at least in recent history.  The article’s title gives you more than a hint at what’s in store:  “Energy summit speakers: Fracking critics scaring the public, driving up home heating costs.

Critics are “scaring the public!” Not on your life. But with language like this, certain elected officials and appointed charlatans certainly are.

It’s no surprise that Barbara Kirkmeyer, Weld County Commissioner, would level the kinds of charges at citizens who seek to protect their health and safety and the health and safety of their families, friends and communities. The evidence of toxicity is mounting daily and it will only grow more certain.

“Fracking detractors are trying to ‘scare the crap out of everybody with the wrong facts and making things up,’ said Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, who was moderating the discussion between Lepore and Anadarko regulatory affairs manager Brad Miller,” reported The Coloradoan.

No, Commissioner Kirkmeyer, the only people who are putting the public in harm’s way and “scaring” them are the likes of YOU and those with whom you associate.

Readers, go back up a paragraph and re-read.  So Kirkmeyer was moderating (that’s a laugh) Lepore and Anadarko.  What’s to moderate?  There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the three of them.

Let’s go up the power ladder to the state government.  Who’s scarin’ who, Mr. Lepore? Lepore is director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and he takes his ideological marching orders only one degree removed from Colorado Governor Hickenlooper.  Hick’s not called Frackenlooper for nuthin’.

Lepore must have had a wild hare up his backside at the “Summit.”  Here’s what The Coloradoan had to say about Lepore’s ridiculous accusation:

“Colorado’s chief oil and gas regulator panned critics of fracking and local public officials trying to regulate the energy industry on Tuesday, saying they’re working hard to drive up the cost of home heating and cooling.”

“Working hard to drive upt the cost of home heating and cooling.”  (Hmmm – maybe that wild hare was coming from rather than…)

Mr. Lepore, have you looked at the rush of applications for liquid natural gas terminals so that the industry can sell to the highest bidder overseas?  I gather you have no problems with fracked gas penetrating the lungs of young and old and all in between.

But lest I give the impression that ALL elected officials (with their pals in the oil and gas industry) are out to trash Coloradans, I want to give a shout out to Councilman Gerry Horak of Fort Collins and Loveland Mayor Cecil Gutierrez, neither of whom were given a spot on the panel.  Horak told the paper:

I hear the opposition demonized,” he said, adding that demonizing concerned citizens is the easiest thing the industry can do to make themselves look foolish.

(You got that right, Mr. Horak!)  And Guitierrez pointed out the obvious, that the “summit’s” fracking discussion was “unbalanced in favor of the industry.”

But there’s one more whopper in the newspaper’s story.  Sit down for this one.  When asked if anything was done to propagandize our kids (excuse me, I think they erroneously said “educate”) in order to improve the industry’s public relations, Anadarko’s Miller said, “We have to educate the youth and start there, and we also have to educate the general public as well,” he said. “Both of those programs need to start now. The industry is starting that.

Kirkmeyer talked about “crap” and she was partially right, because it looks like everything that was said at their arrogantly named “summit” was just that — CRAP

I encourage every Coloradoan who reads this post and the article to spread the word widely.  The public needs to know.  And by the way, Colorado school districts, keep the industry out of the classroom no matter how much money they offer to buy your loyalty and dependence.

So You Say You Want a Revolution?

Social Change Workshop is Modeled After Jesus’ Ministry

First United Methodist Church of Boulder (FUMC) is thrilled to welcome their newest Theologian-in-Residence, Dr. Dorothee Benz, who is offering two FREE workshops to the public on making social change on Saturday July 20th and 27th. The workshops, titled, Power, Protest, Progress: How to Change the World in Two Easy Lessons explore the characteristics of successful social movements and analyze what gives ordinary people the power to make real change happen. “Jesus was all about making social change happen, but following him can be a little daunting – few of us can walk on water or feed 5,000 people. In this class we’ll take a fresh look at Jesus’ ministry and uncover ways in which his most humble acts, like talking to the woman at the well or touching lepers, were more transformative than the flashy fish type miracles and how we can be agents of change in our world today in the same ways”, explains Benz.

Participants will gain an understanding of power based on the writings of scholar-activist Frances Fox Piven, and will draw on examples from the labor movement, the civil rights movement and the Bible.

Reverend Joe Agne, pastor at FUMC says “Benz will help all of us who want to move beyond charity to creating social change – she teaches ways that work. Persons working on fracking, hunger, racism, marriage equality, gun control etc. will find these workshops to be extremely beneficial to their work.”

Dr. Benz is a lifelong activist and organizer. Professionally, she has 25 years experience in social justice communications, and her work as a labor journalist has won numerous awards. She is currently the director of communications at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Benz has a Ph.D. from the City University of New York and her scholarly expertise is in social movements. She is a founding member and chair of Methodists in New Directions (MIND) and one of the architects of the current strategy to transcend the crisis caused by the United Methodist Church’s discrimination against LGBTQ people by organizing networks of clergy and laity to extend their ministries to all couples, gay and straight, on an equal basis in defiance of the rules. She is the winner of the 2012 Gwen and C. Dale White Award from the NY Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action.

Visit fumcboulder.org for more details.

Paradigm shift from fighter-nation mentality needed

Are we a fighter nation?

Are we a fighter nation?

My June 29 guest column in the Times-Call generated a variety of responses via email and on the Opinion page, leading some respondents to ask for a follow-up, so here goes.

I often use personal stories to make a point, connect the dots. These stories are true. I don’t make them up and readers tell me they appreciate them. I was appalled during Army basic training to have my sore feet questioned and see many trainees pummeled into submission with challenges to their veracity. But at least I had boots and the times were different. Our military needed more fighters in Vietnam and petty excuses were not acceptable. I do remember receiving much better medical treatment as an officer, though. I hope that has changed over the past 47 years since I went through training.

One respondent cited a New York Times article claiming more than 50 percent of assaults were to men. Another referred me to Marine Capt. Lindsay Rodman’s Wall Street Journal column, which concluded the statistics on sexual assaults were based on a bad survey resulting in bad math, with projections, not actual assaults that others have hyped out of reality.

Per Capt. Rodman, “The actual number of reported sexual assaults in the military in 2012 was 3,374, up from 3,192 in 2011. Of the 3,374 total cases reported last year, only 12 percent to 14 percent were reported by men. … We in the military justice system want victims to come forward, and to seek accountability through the system. We want them to feel empowered to report, and to know that their command will take the allegation and their recovery seriously. An increasing number of reported sexual assaults, at least in the next few years, should be viewed as a positive sign that this message is being heard.”

Another respondent, a retired Navy public relations officer, described having written a report on sexual assaults that was covered up by the chain of command. And a grandmother wrote concerned about a grandson who might be making a bad choice by enlisting in the military.

All of these perspectives, including mine, are valid. Our military is a huge amalgamation of people. In many ways its members are characteristic of society, yet military service is not the romanticized life portrayed in enlistment commercials flooding TV. Previously on this page, I applauded a young Marine recruit who signed up for the possibility of receiving valuable training while serving his country. Yet he also understood the dreaded alternative of being sent into combat and being killed. Anyone seeking military service must weigh these alternatives.

Personally, I believe everyone should serve this country for at least two years. There are many alternatives to serving in the military and I’ve described some on this page before, especially AmeriCorps. But public service of some kind is necessary to gain a commitment, an investment, in our country.

Over the last half-century, military spending has gobbled up resources that should have been used for education and health care. Yet, doomsday spokesmen tote up the national debt and find no way out of rapidly increasing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending other than to reduce benefits and raise taxes.

Our political leaders are looking at the wrong issues. Incrementally, we have drifted into a fighter-nation mentality. Our priorities are out of whack and we now equate bloated military spending with adequate defense spending. Statistics show we have had enough defense for a long time. We must have a paradigm shift of priorities, a change that puts people first.

Bill Ellis is a local author. Reply to him at contact@billelliswrites.com,

Mayor Dennis Coombs running for re-election.

From the Times-Call:

Dennis Coombs, Longmont's new mayor

Dennis Coombs, Mayor of Longmont

LONGMONT — Mayor Dennis Coombs announced Wednesday that he would run for re-election.

Coombs, who won his first term by a hair’s-breadth margin two years ago, is the first to enter the 2013 mayoral race and the third candidate overall for the Longmont City Council. Parks and recreation board vice chairman Rick Accountius is running for the Ward 2 seat held by departing Councilwoman Katie Witt, and Councilman Gabe Santos is defending his at-large seat.

It’s been a busy two years. In that time, among other things, Longmont has seen a new city manager, new oil and gas regulations, the first steps on the Twin Peaks Mall redevelopment — and legal action related to the last two issues. On the whole, Coombs said, he’s proud of the council’s record. But, he added, it is the council’s record and not just his own; his main role, he said, has been to help bring people together.

Read the rest at the Times-Call

Dennis’ campaign has a Facebook page – Coombs4Longmont2013 – drop by and give them a Like!

You can also find the campaign on Twitter at Coombs4Longmont

Coloradans will continue to say “No” to oil and gas without action.

The following Guest Commentary appeared in The Denver Post on June 27, 2013 and is reproduced on Free Range Longmont with permission from State Representative Mike Foote.
Mike Foote, Colorado State Representative, House District 12

Mike Foote, Colorado State Representative, House District 12

Oil and gas is an issue that will not go away. The number of active wells in Colorado has doubled over the last four years. The number of spills and other contamination incidents has also increased. Drilling has encroached ever closer to more densely populated areas. The industry will spend and make billions of dollars in Colorado in the upcoming years.

People across Colorado have expressed legitimate concerns about their health and safety as well as their lack of a voice in the process. Changes to the system to increase transparency, accountability, local control and safety can go a long way in addressing those concerns.

That’s why I and other legislators brought forward proposals, including imposing minimum penalties for serious violations of the Oil and Gas Conservation Act and changing the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to focus on protecting public health and the environment, ending its conflicted dual role of promoting oil and gas drilling while simultaneously regulating it.

The industry opposed those bills, as well as others increasing water monitoring requirements, increasing the number of well inspectors, creating a health impact study, and assessing fees for local inspection programs. None of those common-sense reforms made it through the legislature.

However, some hope emerged at the end of the session when Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order directing the COGCC to “reevaluate its enforcement philosophy and approach.” The governor’s order went on to say, “Colorado requires strong and clear enforcement of the rules and assessment of fines and penalties accordingly.”

Implicit in the order was the recognition that enforcement of oil and gas industry regulations in Colorado is neither strong nor clear, and that the COGCC has become too cozy with the oil and gas operators it is supposed to be monitoring. It is my hope more progress can be made on this issue as well as many others related to oil and gas over the next year.

Recently, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association announced it would conduct a “listening tour” around the state this summer. As an elected official, my job is to listen to the people of Colorado all year long, and I hear widespread frustration about the current oil and gas system. Perhaps after listening like I have, COGA will be more interested in partnering toward some solutions rather than saying no to any real reform. Because if the industry continues to say “no,” the people of Colorado will say “no” to oil and gas.

That is exactly what is happening across the Front Range right now. Concerned citizens’ groups have popped up from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. A ballot measure banning fracking passed in Longmont with a bipartisan 60 percent margin. Ballot measures in other cities and counties are promised this year.

Instead of taking their concerns seriously, industry supporters have called these citizens extremists and hypocrites for heating their homes and driving cars to work. That isn’t the language of dialogue; that’s the language of confrontation. People have responded with the tools available to them: public protest and the ballot box.

Coloradans know that our most precious natural resources are not gas and oil, but water, air and natural beauty. They will act to protect what’s most precious.

Until Coloradans have confidence that the oil and gas industry is behaving responsibly in our state, and under strict environmental safeguards, we will see this dynamic continue. Building public confidence by setting and enforcing high standards will not only protect the environment and people’s health and safety, it will also protect the livelihoods of the Coloradans who work in the industry.

Negotiation requires more than just sitting at the negotiating table. It requires a willingness to accept opposing viewpoints and a commitment to find common ground. Coloradans deserve no less.

State Representative Mike Foote represents House District 12 in Longmont, Lafayette and Louisville.

 

 

Twin Peaks Mall (Village): not a true renaissance

Much has been made lately over the intent to build a new shopping district in Longmont. Its proponent wants one and all to believe this will be a new “mall,” and that the reincarnation of the mall property will generate a retail renaissance in northeastern Boulder County.

One has to wonder about property developers. I worked with them long enough to learn that “earning” a development fee comes first; supply and demand come later. In this case the property developer has even convinced or coerced the city of Longmont to become its financial partner, and that after the former basically “stole” the pre-existing, nearly shuttered improvements. One does not have to be a trained real estate analyst to see that the lead tenant in Longmont retail centers is “available.” Not so obvious is the underlying potential for demand for retail business.

Photo by M. Douglas Wray ©2011 FreeRangeLongmont.comAdd to the large empty spaces once occupied by Kmart, Sears (part of the old mall) and the original Walmart on a tract adjoining the mall, and a number of vacations by restaurants that chose to flee rather than fight unrealistic rent increases. Consider that when the economy seemed stronger (1990s), there were about 49 square feet of retail space in the country for every person. Now, with incomes and employment down, development activity has largely caved. Largely.

Allowing for a reasonable average of no less than $125 annual sales per square foot, Longmont’s 6.4 million (or so) square feet of retail space, owned or leased, need at least $800 million of disposable income. Assuming that the population is still 87,000, that means each man, woman and child must have more than $9,200 of income after taxes and rent (or mortgage), to support the existing retail base of 73 square feet per person. How many households do you know in Longmont pulling down that kind of dough (gross income would generally be two to three times the “disposable” sum)? Adding to the challenges, more than half of Longmont’s work force leaves town each morning. Many people shop near work as well as, or instead of, near home.

To be fair, the city hasn’t done everything wrong here. Its public tiff with Dillard’s came about in large part because a previous mall owner was desperate to keep Dillard’s when other anchors were moving out. By the way, Dillard’s right to veto improvement or redevelopment is worth something on its own; Dillard’s owns more than just a store. Perhaps Dillard’s wants no competition, or maybe the developer doesn’t want Dillard’s to stay. We may never know. What seems important is that a city so hungry for sales tax continues to ignore what might be its biggest asset: its historic downtown. Look around the country and see what I mean. The possible ambiance and amenities there can’t really be matched by a sterile, stainless-steel series of coffins parachuted onto a parking lot the size of some counties.

Longmont could take a page from London, where a 50-acre development will be designed as a “brand pavilion,” aimed at allowing global labels to set up interactive exhibitions linked to the growing online buying trend. To its credit London intends to include more than 1,500 homes within its new attraction.

The effective economic lifetime of Twin Peaks Mall was less than 20 years. In 2034 the tax incremental financing to be imposed for the new “mall” will not yet be retired. If malls per se are becoming extinct, wrecking ball operators in Longmont may want to keep their machinery well oiled.

Arrogance of command protects sexual assault offenders

Clearly, someone needs a good boot in the pants.

Clearly, someone needs a good boot in the pants.

The first time I showed up at “sick call” during Army basic training, 16 in my company of 250 filled the first sergeant’s office displaying blisters worn through to flesh. Both of my Achilles were bloody and I could hardly walk, much less run in combat boots. This ailment stayed with me through four months of infantry training and six months of officer training, the latter including “jorks,” jogs of five miles carrying an M-14 and wearing a fully loaded backpack.

Periodically, an Army doctor would prescribe low quarters, regular shoes, so I could continue training. And to this day, nerve damage in my left foot causes pain and numbness in several toes.

I relate this sad tale to demonstrate this point: Of the 16 complainers that day, only four of us withstood the first sergeant’s shaming condemnation and actually went to see a doctor. The other 12 were bullied into submission, made to feel like cowards and laggards. Our treatment then was matched with another warning. Don’t write to your congressman and complain because the chain of command will send that letter to your company commander and you will be in hot water.

No one who has served in the military should be surprised that there were 26,000 cases of sexual assault recently reported. I wondered about the huge jump and asked a friend, a woman who served four years and left the Army as a captain. She related that a male senior officer had harassed her on her first tour of duty. It didn’t matter that she was married and warned him off. She is an attractive woman, and, as she said, “boys will be boys.” Today though, she believes the overall environment has improved, leading more women to report sexual assaults and harassment. Regardless, she said, there is still an arrogant “good old boy network” protecting offenders.

As the father of four daughters and grandfather of six granddaughters, I see the existence of a network of men who will lie to protect other men as so far from honorable as to be repulsive. Military officers are sworn to tell the truth. Always. They are also expected to uphold positive leadership characteristics including empathy, dedication, judiciousness, loyalty, trust and understanding. Note that arrogance is not one. Yet I saw it many times from officers who believed that once silver or gold bars, oak leaf clusters, eagles or stars were pinned on their shoulders they were automatically imbued with greater intelligence and overriding power. And that first morning on sick call was my first encounter with its corruption.

Years before the reality of Hillary Clinton as a viable presidential candidate, my wife asked a good question: Where are all the women running for president? That was in August 2000, when we didn’t like any of the candidates. The idea for a book struck me, so one night we sat down and brainstormed to describe the ideal first woman president. She had to be “flameproof,” and Hailey MacMurray, the leading lady in my novel, was certainly that. She was spick and span, highly intelligent, smart, an All-American athlete and attractive. Hailey would attend the Air Force Academy and graduate at the top of her class on the way to becoming a jet fighter pilot. And become a widowed, single mom. How could the hawks vote against such a phenomenon?

Then real life intervened. Almost between chapters in my writing life at home, I was introduced to the daughter of an office secretary where I worked as part-time gofer. Personable and well-mannered, she was an all-state volleyball player, and as a freshman at the Air Force Academy was so good she was on the starting varsity.

Then she was sexually assaulted at the academy. Her mother’s grief at work was palpable and mixed with the fear that her husband was threatening to take his gun to the academy and shoot somebody, anybody. But on top of the anguish of the assault came this message to the young woman from the “brass”: Resign. Quit school. That’s what all the other women have done.

Say again? Where was the empathy, loyalty, trust and understanding?

Twenty-six thousand sexual assaults tell me the chain of command does not work and should not be considered for reporting such felonies, court martial offenses. Yet the Inspector General reporting system is set up for just such cases. If the IG system is not working, then it’s time, in Army lingo, to take names and kick ass.

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

President Obama: Fracked Gas is Not a Solution to Climate Change

I watched with anticipation yesterday as President Obama delivered his speech laying out his new climate action plan. Climate change is one of the most pressing issue of our time, and one on which the United States desperately needs to lead. While it was heartening to hear the President take on climate deniers and pledge to fight the problem, his full-throated advocacy for fracked natural gas and oil was more a case of two steps back than a giant step forward.

A major pillar of the President’s climate action plan is increased production and use of domestic fracked natural gas – and it wasn’t just gas – he also lauded increased domestic oil production. While Obama didn’t use the word “fracking,” that is the method used to extract gas and oil in communities across the country. He repeatedly referred to “clean burning natural gas” and lauded it as a “bridge fuel.” But if our goal is stemming climate change, fracked gas is a bridge to nowhere. It’s true that we need to identify new sources of energy, but we can’t drill away our energy problems.

Studies show that the process of drilling, fracking, processing and transporting natural gas releases a tremendous amount of methane into the air. Methane is 70-100 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.  Some recently published studies on methane emissions show that burning natural gas may be even worse, in terms of the overall greenhouse gas footprint, than burning coal for electricity and burning fuel oil to heat homes or run industrial boilers. A massive expansion of fracking threatens to undo any gains from other parts of his plan and may make matters even worse. For an excellent video on the intersection between fracking and climate change, check out this great explanation by Cornell Professor, Tony Ingraffea.

Ban Fracking NowThere is a strong and growing movement against fracking – not just because of its documented impact on water, air and communities, but also because it is a driver of climate change. PrintAmericans Against Fracking, a national coalition to ban fracking has over 200 organizational members and vibrant state based coalitions pushing for a ban in New York, Colorado, California and elsewhere.  People across the country are growing to understand what climate scientists have said for years—that we must leave our fossil fuels in the ground to avert climate change.

When I heard Obama talking about boosting the development of natural gas and oil yesterday, I got angry, but then I got energized. I got energized by the tens of thousands of people in New York pushing Governor Cuomo to ban fracking; I got energized by the amazing organizing in Pennsylvania and California to move the Democratic Party to endorse moratoriums on fracking; and I got energized by the people in Boulder County, Colorado who won an 18 month moratorium on fracking.

Our movement is growing and our elected officials have not caught up to their constituents. It’s critical that we pressure President Obama to listen to the science and to this growing movement against fracking for oil and gas. We also need to continue to hold him accountable for decisions he is making that contribute to climate change. His Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, for example, is facing critical decisions about fracking on public lands and his administration is also making key decisions on liquefied natural gas exports, pipeline projects and other infrastructure projects.

Take action now to tell President Obama that fracked gas and oil is not part of any climate solution.

Mark Schlosberg is the National Organizing Director of Food & Water Watch. He has a J.D. from New York University and a B.A. in Economics from University of California at Berkeley.

Americans Against Fracking Statement: Obama Climate Change Plan

For Immediate Release
June 25, 2013

Contact
Emily Wurth, 202-412-1505

Americans Against Fracking

Statement

on Obama Climate Change Plan

“President Obama deserves praise for prioritizing climate change, but if he’s serious he needs to start by rejecting fracking for oil and gas. Fracking is a dangerous and toxic drilling process that greatly exacerbates climate change and threatens to put us over the edge. 400 ppm is a game changer that requires President Obama stand up to the oil and gas industry. We have clean and abundant wind, water, and solar alternatives that can power the entire U.S. and individual states, according to studies, with existing technologies at equivalent or lower costs than conventional fuels. President Obama can’t claim to seriously address climate change and expand fracking for oil and gas – that’s a stark contradiction,” said actor/director Mark Ruffalo, a spokesperson for Americans Against Fracking.

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Crocodile tears don’t wear well on Big Oil

Tisha Schuller, CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, has been busy making the public relations rounds these days. And she’s promised to remain busy all summer as she goes from editorial board to editorial board with her latest talking point: polarizing.

What has Ms. Schuller (and the oil and gas industry) so motivated? Fracking, of course. Or more accurately, public opposition to fracking, a highly toxic and dangerous extraction method that threatens the health of every man, woman and child nearby or downwind of the volatile organic compounds that are released.

 

Fracking  near Mead CO

 

“Out in the boonies,” for the most part, and away from populated areas, until recently, the oil and gas industry had the luxury of operating under the radar of the air traffic control of the Front Range.

We should have been paying closer attention. But then, those in powerful places really didn’t want you to know very much. It might raise your eyebrows; bring frowns to your forehead; make you question. It might even activate you.

The West Slope has been fighting the fallout from fracking for oil and gas for years. Trying to preserve their health and their way of life, our friends on the other side of the Rockies have been battling their county commissioners, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, elected officials and don’t forget Big Oil, tirelessly and with determination, while most of the rest of us were leading our lives in “blissful ignorance” to the looming threats.

Ah, Ms. Schuller, I’m sure you long for the good old days, when all you had to do was keep an eye on the politicians in Denver to be sure that enough of them were on the same page as you.

So you tell your tale of woe to the newspapers so that your message, “We’re the good guys,” will be delivered by reporters not organizations that Big Oil has created and financed (Longmont Times-Call, “Colorado Oil and Gas Association seeks to depolarize local drilling disputes,” June 4, 2013).

With the inside media track, you write more of the same in the Denver Post. You moan and wring your hands about how abused the oil and gas industry is when all they do is provide you with, well, “everything.” You claim that “drill, baby, drill” is not you. If there even is such a thing, it comes from “extremists” on your side.

You claim that anyone against the vile consequences of horizontal hydraulic fracking is an “extremist” on the other side. Big Oil is no “villain.” They are your mommy and daddy taking care of your every need. “You’ll realize we were right when you grow up.”

But you, COGA and all of your industry members and the 501(c)(4)s that carry out your public relations and advertising directions, who execute your carefully crafted talking points are the “moderates.” Oh, please!

You do know “Energy in Depth,” don’t you? When you read about them on their website, you are given to believe that they are just a nice public service organization who will deliver, as “Dragnet’s” Sgt. Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”

But founding member IPAA (Independent Petroleum Association of America), in a 2009 internal document, wrote, “IPAA’s government relations and communications teams have been working around-the-clock on a new industry-wide campaign — known as ‘Energy in Depth’ — to combat new environmental regulations, especially with regard to hydraulic fracturing.”

It went on to say, “The ‘Energy in Depth’ project would not be possible without the early financial commitments of: El Paso Corporation, XTO Energy (now owned by Exxon/Mobil), Occidental Petroleum, BP, Anadarko, Marathon, EnCana, Chevron, Talisman, Shell, API, IPAA, Halliburton, Schlumberger and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.” Giants, all giants of the most profitable industry on earth, pretending to be the “David” in a battle against attacks from folks like the Longmont voters who banned fracking in our city.

EID was orchestrated as a “major initiative to respond to … attacks” and to devise and circulate “coordinated messages” among federal and state associations and member companies “working closely with news media and policymakers.”

So look for the word “polarize” to repeat over and over while COGA presents itself as the only sensible entity. But don’t believe it. Don’t count on COGA to protect your health and all that derives from it.

When is a “Democrat” not a Democrat?

Ah, for the “good old days.”  It’s a lament that’s heard a lot these days — from a lot of quarters and for a lot of reasons. Some pine for their youth and vigor. An “empty nester” might long for the days when the kids were little. Some might wish for a full head of hair.

But more often than not, those words are spoken in a political context. Conservative Republicans long for their hero, Ronald Reagan. Progressives have to go all the way back to Carter or Johnson, and especially to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Up and down the political “food chain” there are not many “real Democrats” left. (Yes, I know, very punny.) It’s especially true as you go further up that chain. The genuine Democrats were replaced by others heralding from the Democratic Leadership Council or eliminated by the painstaking work of Newt Gingrich to poison the public’s perception of Congress so that it would be ripe for a takeover by his clones.

OK, I can see conservatives and corporatists “visitors” uttering “yeah” with two thumbs up. The “flat earthers” and the “birthers” and the “Bible thumpers” may not join in the cheers. But, hey, they are mostly just along for the ride (or the votes), while the money changers are forming “one world under the dollar with liberty and “justice” only for them.”

In reality, there is no more Democratic Party. Oh, yes, they still use that name. We have only ONE political party in charge of our government; but it has two branches. I like to call them the Republican Corporate Party and the Republican Lunatic Fringe Party.

Which leads me to the point of this article — President Barack Obama and his junior wannabe president Governor John Hickenlooper. The “we have every right to spy on Americans” president and the “fracking fluid drinker” governor are two cases in point.

worried ObamaWhile spending some time exploring the many articles that find their way into my Inbox, I found one especially astute and honest, brought to me courtesy of OpEdNews. “Dear Obamaheads” by John and Jean Anton is worth reading in it’s entirety. Please do. But here’s the part that I’ll borrow for this article. (Some of my good Democratic friends may not like this.  But there’s an elephant that some don’t want to see.)

[Obama] should consider how much easier life would be for him, if he were a Republican.   He wouldn’t have to make any more promises that he had no intention of keeping.   He could build even more nuclear plants, extend even more gas lines, and subsidize fracking everywhere without worrying about environmentalists.   Whistle-blowers could still be arrested as traitors, tortured, and imprisoned indefinitely “for their own good” without guilt….

Best of all, in the name of national security, he could join Republicans in ignoring all the amendments to the constitution except two: the one that says corporations are people, and the one that says yes, even four-year-olds have the right to carry weapons of mass destruction to school, to libraries, to lavatories.

He could lie like a Republican.   He could bully like a Republican.

He could steal from the poor and the middle class to give to the rich like a Republican.   He could continue to wage war everywhere in the world with only a nod of his head, without congressional approval, without the support of the American people whose blood he could spill and treasure he could spend because —  he wants to.

In other words, instead of being a fake Democrat, he could be a real Republican.

 What is it that broadcasters like to say?  “And now we return you to your local programming.”  Moving on to Colorado…

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

Frackenlooper appears to be digging his own political grave.

Yes, I really need to say more about our beloved Frankenlooper.  We wouldn’t want him to feel slighted.  After all, he may be the “chosen one” to replace Obama in 2016.  The Democratic Governors Association loves him and is doing everything in its power to elevate Hick’s profile (with a little help for oil and gas $$$).  And he’s a safer bet than New York’s guv, Andrew Cuomo — at least when it comes to oil and gas.

Although not everyone has faced the true political identity of Barack Obama, there IS a growing body of awareness where Frackenlooper is concerned.  He knows how to get down to business, Big Business, Big Oil Business.  Whether overt or covert, he gets the job done for them.

BUT!  He overplayed his hand when he sued the City of Longmont.  No one bought his “sleepless nights” or his “last resort” rhetoric.  Well, maybe not “no one.”  But it certainly was a media and public wake-up call. Even then, Hick was more politically tone-deaf than what might be expected of a calculating pol.  He went for the knock-out punch and instead got knocked out himself when he strutted his stuff and said that he’d sue the pants off anymore communities that dared to ban fracking for oil and gas.

Oops!!  That’s when his handlers stepped in.  And if he didn’t figure it out all by his lonesome, they said, “Hey, Hick!  You can’t keep doin’ this.  When you find yourself in a hole, stop diggin’.  Let COGA [Colorado Oil and Gas Association] and the industry folks do it for you.”

It wasn’t long ago that Hickenlooper was sporting a 54% approval rating. However, the recent Quinnipaic poll has him now at 47%. That’s frightening for an incumbent, even if it’s spun otherwise.  Quinnipaic coupled this survey with Hickenlooper’s decision on the Dunlap death penalty matter. But they were too narrow in their research into causation. Many of those up in arms about Hickenlooper’s decision for a temporary reprieve won’t vote for the governor for any number of other reasons.

Hick is losing support from “his base,” the Democratic voter that is furious with him for his position on oil and gas legislation.

No-fracking-logoSo here’s the message to our Colorado governor: If you want to get re-elected in 2014 and have that shot at the coveted whole enchilada, get on the right side of history. Let local governments determine whether or not they want oil and gas drilling and specifically hydraulic fracturing for the stuff in their communities. Don’t con us. No weasel words. No lies.

If you do this, most will come back to you next November in stead of staying home or even voting Republican because they just can’t pull the lever for you. The big oil and gas bucks into your campaign account are not going to save your political hide. In fact, they will help do you in. “You can run but you can’t hide.” has all kinds of meanings this time around. Your Republican opponent may not bring that up, but be sure that others will.

So spend some of those sleepless nights that you really didn’t spend before you sued Longmont thinking about YOUR future. The rest of us are going to do all we can to preserve ours. And that might not include YOU.