Opinion

Neutralization vs Annihilation

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Wikipedia-The Free Encyclopedia

Occupied Palestinian Territories

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

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

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

Longmont’s home rule charter is under assault

Where's council?

Where’s council?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gordon Pedrow is a former Longmont city manager.

The Trouble With Jared

First published at ColoradoPols by Whiskey Lima Juliet.
Full disclosure, I think Jared’s one of the best congressmen the state of Colorado has ever had. The fact that he’s shaking up the establishment Dems is proof I’m right. -FRL

Congressman Jared Polis

Congressman Jared Polis

I recently read the Eli Stokols hit piece on Jared Polis “The Trouble with Jared” and I thought “the trouble with Jared?” How about the trouble with the Democratic Party. The “Trouble with Jared” is, he is a Democrat and it appears the rest of the Party has forgotten what that means.

While the Denver insiders fret about the fact that they still can’t control Jared, the rest of Colorado is cheering him on. Jared is a leader. Leadership was explained to me by my military father and my time in the military, I grew up understanding that leadership is sometimes lonely. Jared is always on the right side of being a democrat. Jared’s a disrupter, he always has been. He is out there being the change the Democrats wanted to see. And it appears he is always alone on the right side of history.

He was making the establishment unconformable when he started his schools for recent immigrants at a time when the Democrats in the state were campaigning on passing the toughest immigration laws in the country.

They were mad as hell when he proposed Amendment 41 to limit gifts and free dinner from lobbyist to law makers. That pissed off a bunch of the “buy me and my friends’ tickets to all of ball games, galas and expensive dinners in exchange for my vote on your issue” elected officials. (Yeah, you know who you are)

Then there was my favorite move by Jared, he supported the cannabis industry.

He honestly supported it. He did not give the behind the door cowardly response of, “Well, Wanda, of course we support not locking up minorities, but I have tough race and I am too much of coward to actually let people know what I think” crowd. Jared was upfront about his approach. And like all of his decisions, he was unwavering and on the right side of the issue and on the right side of history. He introduced a bill in Congress to legalize marijuana only to have his home state actually do it a few months later and now the NY Times is calling for Congress to take up his bill.

While Jared is making the political class “nervous” they might be wise to tune into what the people of Colorado are saying. We are in desperate need of bold leadership and a vision for the future. To be honest, can any of you give one example of vision from any of the elected officials? Supporting Oil and Gas is not visionary.

The trouble with Jared, is that he belongs to a party that is increasing out of step with Coloradans and they are spinning their wheels trying to take him down a peg. He is rich, he is gay, he is outspoken and he wears bow ties with polo shirts. They have no idea how to handle him. And I love it. And apparently, so do the voters of Colorado.

Read the rest of this great article at ColoradoPols.

Air War on Longmont

20140618_Longmont Noise Poll Results

N125PM-otter

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

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

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

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

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

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

N66GS-MileHi-LowResWeb

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

Governor vetoes public-private partnerships

Harry Hempy Green Candidate for Governor for the People of Colorado

Harry Hempy
Green Candidate for Governor for the People of Colorado

John Hickenlooper likes “P” words. His April 22 fund raising letter asked voters to guess his pick from the words politics, prestige, partisanship, and partnership. Hickenlooper picked partnership. I thought he would pick privatization.

A Green party candidate, like myself, thinks of different “P” words: people, planet, peace (before profit).

The Colorado legislature passed SB14-197 in response to the state’s secretive 50-year deal with Australia’s Plenary Group to operate US 36 between Boulder and Denver and outlaw competitive transportation projects. The Plenary road deal was protested by thousands of Coloradans living in the Boulder-Denver corridor.

Governor Hickenlooper vetoed the Public-Private Partnership bill on June 4, ensuring there will be no Public in P3’s – Public-Private Partnerships. Hickenlooper said public oversight “inappropriately constrains the business terms of future P3 agreements”.

What? Public oversight of the state’s business deals is “inappropriate”?

Colorado voters have clear choices for governor this fall: Privatizers, profiteers and partisans can vote for a corporate Democrat or a corporate Republican.

People preferring populist policies can vote for Harry Hempy. Http://www.Hempy4Governor.org

Harry Hempy
Green Candidate for Governor for the People of Colorado

PO Box 264
Jamestown, CO 80455
303-459-0172

NRA Cynicism Leads to Murders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Towards a national agenda

Bill Ellis - billelliswrites.com

Bill Ellis – billelliswrites.com

I am dropping out of “the battle of the billionaires” because the money poured into attack ads by both sides is irrelevant to a national agenda. Further, when I hear from anyone running for office I’m asked to sign a petition against the other side and send in another contribution. This strategy is armed by little folks firing petty cash into a black hole. It is also faux citizenship: contribute a buck get access like the big guys, just in smaller bits. With judicial consent.

Why is this irrelevant? By some estimates the 2012 general election was our most expensive ever with about $6 Billion spent. Honestly, did you change your mind based on attack ads? I thought not. Me neither. Basically, that money was wasted; it is a sorry state we’ve come to. And the elected representatives we count on to step in and fix the mess are entangled up to their necks, collecting donations to stay in office.

Just for grins, let’s see what that amount of money translates to if invested wisely, for example in hiring the unemployed at a minimum wage of $10 an hour:

$6,000,000,000/10 = 600,000,000 hrs./2,000 hrs. per work year = 300,000 jobs. It doesn’t matter that we only have elections every two years because campaigning and donation collection are continuous!

See the benefits to us? I see $6 Billion injected into the economy to create even more jobs; same amount saved from reduced unemployment claims; $60 Million returned to the U.S. Treasury in taxes; another $60 Million paid into Social Security; and another $Umpteen billion saved on servicing interest on the national debt. There’s more.

About 100,000 families would not go bankrupt. About 100,000 would buy health insurance with no penalty for previous conditions. Possibly 100,000 lives could be saved. I would contribute to a publicly-funded election for this goal.

Problem: Economic research (Google “oligarchy” and “wealth inequality”) warns of the loss of capitalism through wage inequality, and our democracy to the rule of a wealthy/corporate elite. Whether it is true or not, many believe this; the perception is real. Our constitutional system based on the power and authority of the people has lost credibility among all generations. Citizens across the political spectrum express doubt that our elected representatives answer to us, American voters. Billionaire wars via attack ads attest to our loss.

This conclusion answers many questions, foremost being why there has been no action by political parties and their wealthy backers to address national concerns. As long as left is pitted against right no common ground is developed to create solutions.

A national agenda: We don’t need a scientific poll to identify items for a national agenda. Try these reforms:

  • tax code;
  • immigration;
  • national health care;
  • election financing;
  • gun rights; and,
  • fair wage reform including a higher minimum wage and a maximum wage tied to rising wages below management levels. (Thank you Dick Montague.)

No matter what you have been led to think, we have the power and authority to change how our country is governed. The solution is advanced citizenship voting for national interests. Our government has more than enough money to operate if it spends our tax dollars for the right reasons. Speak out. Stop contributing to the elite power game. Vote in your own best interest for the country.

Bill Ellis is a local author. Reply to bill-ellis@comcast.net

Singer a Thoughtful and Dedicated Public Servant

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

Jonathan Singer – HD11 Representative

Colorado Representative Jonathan Singer, servicing most of Longmont, is a passionate public servant who has spent his life fighting on behalf of the under privileged and the underserved. As a social worker, he fought to get children out of abusive homes. In the State House, Representative Singer has enlarged his commitment to all of Colorado’s kids and working families by toiling to streamline and enlarge child welfare services, to support job growth, to implement fairer labor practices, and to fight for first responders suffering from PTSD. Defending the rights of every single Coloradan, Representative Singer, proudly supported Colorado ASSET and Civil Unions. A member of the House Appropriation Committee, Representative Singer believes in smart, fiscally responsible government.

Representative Singer cares and takes the time to listen to all of his constituents. If you’ve had the chance to meet and talk to him, then you know this is true. Representing Longmont, Lyons and Allens Park, Representative Singer’s flood relief bill was the first bill introduced in the Colorado House this session.

We are certainly most fortunate to have such a thoughtful and dedicated public servant representing us at the Capital.

Cliff Smedley – Alan Rosenfeld for County Commissioner

Alan Rosenfeld

Alan Rosenfeld

I support Alan Rosenfeld to replace Cindy Domenico as our County Commissioner. It is time for a change. Let me discuss a few of Cindy’s questionable policy positions here. Of the 3 current Commissioners, Cindy has been the most tolerant of the fracking industry because she is fearful that the County will be sued by the industry. In a separate issue, Cindy has continued the wrong-headed choice to neglect county roads. Her solution, along with the other 2 current Commissioners, is to to impose a user tax in order to maintain roads in subdivisions of unincorporated Boulder County. Guess what! Over 100 citizens have now sued the County because of this wrong-headed user tax. Why is it that Cindy is afraid of a lawsuit by the Fracking industry but she is not afraid of a lawsuit from citizens? The Commissioners, including Cindy, have been provided legal opinions from environmental attorneys indicating that the County can also be sued by citizens over Fracking if they don’t protect our rights to clean air and water. Cindy’s questionable policy choices make me want to vote for someone else in this year’s Commissioner race. That someone else is Alan Rosenfeld. The first step in supporting Alan is to show up at the Democratic Party Caucuses on the evening of March 4th. Please show up and help Alan to win this race!

Cliff Smedley
Lafayette, CO

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

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.

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.