Opinion

Opposition to limits on free speech grows

This is an update to an earlier article.

This poll question at the TimesCall:

The Longmont City Council offers two “public invited to heard” sessions during each regular meeting — one near the beginning of the meeting and one at the end. Mayor Bryan Baum would like to see the first public-invited segment to be limited to no more than 30 minutes. Speakers already are limited to three minutes each. Should the first public-invited session be limited, and if so, how much time should be allotted?

Here’s how the voting looked two days ago:

Times call poll as of Jan 29, 2010 at 1:00 AM MDT

Click images to enlarge


Now it’s late in the day sunday Jan 31 and more folks have expressed their opinion:

The number of total votes has gone up from

262 to 376 (over 40% more votes)

114 more citizens spoke up (which is great to see)

click images to enlarge

The opposition to limiting Public Invited To Be Heard to a 30 minute limit compared to no limit has grown from 3:1 to 3.2:1 (look at the charts and you can see the jump:

Samples from 1/29 and 1/31 – note the increase in scale on the charts (click images to enlarge)

I think it’s pretty obvious, even from this admittedly-nonscientific poll, that the people who are paying attention really don’t agree with the idea of limiting Public Invited To Be Heard and suggestions to that effect are not welcome by the public. Any ‘good steward’ of government should be able to see this. I hope this analysis has helped provide more clarity.

Longmont’s mayor opposes free speech

Longmont mayor Bryan Baum

Longmont mayor Bryan Baum. Photo by MDWray. ©2010 all rights reserved.

It seems Mayor Baum has decided he doesn’t like to hear from the public – at least not when they don’t agree with him. At the end of the City Council retreat on Saturday he announced he wants to change the way “Public Invited to be Heard” is handled at the weekly City Council meetings. He wants to limit the entire process to 30 minutes because he thinks “it’s ridiculous to have to listen for an hour and a half.” Does this tell you something about the attitude of our new mayor? I guess he thinks Democracy is only worth 30 minutes. And if the other council members don’t agree with him? He’s threatening to move it to the end of the council meeting with the closing phrase

“I’m the mayor and it’s up to me. I can set this up any way I want.” Very chilling.

I find the timing of this decision very interesting as it falls right on the heels of a council meeting in which many people directed criticism toward Baum for a variety of things. (The other half were there to speak for or against the red light cameras). I guess Baum has decided that the best way to keep the criticism down is to shut down free speech at public meetings. That’s one way to do it. The other would be to govern with integrity and honesty and accountability.

Leahy Slams Alito For ‘Under Oath’ Testimony To Committee

From HuffPo

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) lashed into Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Thursday morning on the Senate floor, calling out the swing vote who overturned a hundred years of precedent to legalize deep corporate involvement in elections.

Leahy said that, in 36 years in the Senate he had never come to the floor to criticize a court decision, but was moved to do so by the activist nature of last week’s 5-4 ruling in the Citizens United case.

He personally attacked Alito, noting that his confirmation testimony was under oath, yet was proven false by his brazen and radical dismissal of a century of precedent.

Read the rest at HuffPo

Majority of Longmonters reject free speech limits

This poll question at the TimesCall:

The Longmont City Council offers two “public invited to heard” sessions during each regular meeting — one near the beginning of the meeting and one at the end. Mayor Bryan Baum would like to see the first public-invited segment to be limited to no more than 30 minutes. Speakers already are limited to three minutes each. Should the first public-invited session be limited, and if so, how much time should be allotted?

Times call poll as of Jan 29, 2010 at 1:00 AM MDT

Times call poll as of Jan 29, 2010 at 1:00 AM MDT

Here’s the results as of 1:00 AM.

Pretty clear the mayor was unwise to even suggest limiting Public Invited to Be Heard.

These next two charts, from data collected from 9:30 AM – 1:45 PM show the ratios throughout the polling period:

(Click charts to enlarge)

In the end, after 262 votes were cast and from start to finish the average ratio of people that chose no limits to Public Invited to Be Heard was a steady 56%. Note that at 1:00 AM, the total of people choosing any limit (combining all three choices) in the poll was 113 while the number choosing no limits was 149.

Note that the final ratio of the smallest limit (30 minutes) to no limit voters was 52 / 149 – almost three to one.

There, plain as day, is the stony hard core of an ideology that would declare a permanent majority and crucify the principles of Democracy on the cross of opportunism.

Caucus is coming up.

Get busy.

All Will be Watching

Longmont Mayor Bryan Baum, 2010

It didn’t go without notice that Mayor Baum backed off from earlier comments that he made about major changes to Public Invited to be Heard (PITBH). His comments were encouraging in that he promised that there is “no way we will ever try to mute the public.” However, I do have some concern because he also said that “any changes will be carefully looked at.”

So here’s the dilemma, will Mayor Baum actually NOT mute the public or will he mute them LATER after the furor has died down?

I hope the matter is settled and no changes in PITBH will occur – or other actions that would have the effect of suppressing public comment and opinion. The right, left and center of Longmont will be watching. One thing most of us do have in common is the value we place on free speech.

Unfortunately, some of Mayor Baum’s strongest cheerleaders have a demonstrated tepid value of same. That, too, has not gone unnoticed. More on that in other venues.

Mayor Baum: “Having to listen is ridiculous”

It looked like we were going to get through the Council Retreat without a Baum being dropped, but at the close of the retreat a political atomic warhead was launched.

Longmont’s anything-but-illustrious Mayor Baum “brought it up for discussion” that he wants to limit the entire Pubic Invited to be Heard (PITBH) to only 30 minutes after which each council member would have three minutes “to dispel public untruths”.  If he doesn’t get agreement for this arrangement, he plans to move PITBH to the END of the evening.  He claims that the “business of the city and council is more important” than listening to the public’s concerns, their love for their community and their passion for government in the interest of ALL of the citizens of Longmont.  He thinks “it is ridiculous to have to listen for an hour and a half.”

Now, of course, these “public untruths” that he wishes to dispel are not untruths at all. In Baum’s eyes and in the eyes of his acolytes and foot soldiers, any difference of opinion is an “untruth.”

But there’s more to this story than differences of opinion.  We have a mayor who intends to strangle other voices.  He never intended to listen to all of Longmont.  He came to office with an agenda, an agenda to undo as much of the progress made during the last two years as he can.  He campaigned on a platform denying the legitimacy of past actions and denying the current economic realities that impact our city’s opportunities for economic development.

As I’ve done for over two years, I’ve continued to attend the council meetings, pre-sessions, and retreats (with few exceptions).  While I really shouldn’t be, I’m blown away to find these newly elected officials claiming credit for the actions of the past council for whom they have only contempt.  I’m blown away to hear them now claim that the national macroeconomic conditions are impeding further progress on redeveloping the mall when this message was loud and clear from the previous majority.

Cynicism in the extreme.  A lack of integrity off the charts.

Periodically over the last two years, Times-Call bloggers have thrown out the possibility of recalling Sean McCoy, Sarah Levison and Brian Hansen.  It continues even though the balance of power has decidedly shifted.  Why would it matter to them, you ask?  As long as there are alternative voices on Longmont’s city council, the new majority’s agenda, their thinking (or lack thereof) and their decisions will be questioned and disputed.

Baum also wants to limit questions from council members to staff or other presenters to ONE.  Astonishing!  That might work with Katie Witt, who has a demonstrated inability to string more than one thought together at a time.  However, I doubt sincerely that he would apply such restrictions uniformly—especially to himself.  And I doubt sincerely that the new majority even needs to “ask questions” since they come to council with their decisions already made.

All of this maneuvering is about establishing the Republican “permanent majority” which was planned some 40 years ago and that Republicans have been executing ever since.  And make no mistake, these local Uber Republicans were elected with the money and assistance of the machine in place to accomplish just that objective.  Silencing opposition, whether it comes from the public or from the council dais, is the intent.

McCoy, Hansen and Levison were polite in responding to this unexpected turn of events.  And it must have been very difficult.  McCoy stood up strongly for the preservation of free speech, democracy and transparency.  He had to repeat this message several times.  And it undeniably fell on very deaf ears.

Hansen insisted that this change be brought to council for a public discussion.  (City Manager Gordon Pedrow said it would be on February 16th study session agenda.)

Levison stated that the public typically comments at first reading.  By second reading , she said, it’s too late to have influence.  She also pointed out that if PITBH is moved to the end of the evening, the council business and the subjects that the public wants to address have already been discussed and decided.

Baum closed with:  “I’m the Mayor and it’s up to me.  I can set this up any way I want.”

These totalitarian tactics must not and will not stand.  On the heels of the Supreme Court decision of, by and for the corporation, our republic and our democracy is in genuine jeopardy.  Longmont is a microcosm and meant to be a beachhead.   Let the battle be joined.

Campaign finance: The end of Democracy

From the Boulder Daily Camera:

Dan Frazier: Campaign finance: The end of Democracy

We can write the obituary for our American Democracy.  It died January 21st, 2010, with the Supreme Court ruling for Citizens United v. FEC.  From this day forward, there are no limits on the money that large or even multi-national corporations may use to control elections.  However much money a candidate can raise, corporations will be able to overwhelm that campaign with legal media buys.   In less than a decade, all elected officials will be vassals of corporations.  Instead of Democracy we will have Fascism: The marriage of government and business under authoritarian rule.

Of course we will not notice much of a change at first.  The elections will seem much the same.  A few of your favorite shows will go away but there will be plenty of interactive, sports, and reality shows.  There won’t be much media chatter about the bad economy except to blame it on some radicals.  Where you had a house, your kids will only be lucky to afford an apartment.  Many of your friends and relatives will fall on hard times but it will not be reflected in the news, which will talk instead about the patriotic necessity to sacrifice for the war.

There will really be only one party, with the two wings called the Democrats and Republicans.  Only corporate-vetted candidates will be on ballots and elections will be electronic and privatized.  Government positions will be patronage for loyal corporatists.  Corporations will be able to write or change any law to suit their purposes.  All facets of government will be repurposed for corporate use.  Public safety nets such as Social Security and Medicare will be quietly eliminated.   Constitutional rights will disappear because no one will defend them.

You think this is fiction?  It is already happening.  Who is going to stop it?

Dan Frazier
Boulder
Leave a comment at the Daily Camera

Gang of four Council partisan lock step voting

Note: It was this address by a citizen that caused the mayor to make a very snide remark. Watch that video here.

I’m seeing a very concerning pattern from the new majority consistently voting in partisan lock step.  This includes the mayor, Councilwoman Witt, and Councilmen Santos & Sammoury.

Specifically, in the 2 months since you’ve been elected the four of you have:

  1. Chosen petty partisanship in Board assignments.  By removing Councwoman Levison as representative of Planning & Zoning and voting 4-3 to seat Councilman Santos having less credentials and not even expressing a desire for this seat on the list of preferred boards you had each provided.
  2. You 4  denied the Board of Environmental Affairs the same stature as other City Citizen Boards for no apparent reason.
  3. You 4 voted against endorsing the Da Vinci project – an innovative & creative contest encouraging the building of green homes. The endorsement would cost Longmont nothing in time or money but held the potential of shining a very positive light on Longmont by promoting a growing industry.  Again, petty partisanship prevented this worthwhile gesture.
  4. The 4 of you voted to empower Wal-Mart to renig on their promise to build a Sam’s Club rather than another Super Wal-Mart.
  5. The 4 of you voted against using federal stimulus money to continue the Solar rebate program – the kind of program that, again, puts Longmont on the map for innovation and smart energy-saving partnerships that spur private sector job creation. Adding insult to injury, the mayor growled at a citizen who challenged this decision at last week’s open forum.

Finally, 3 of you appear to have violated the Colorado Sunshine Law. This statute prohibits any governmental body of 3 or more from meeting to discuss public business in private.  These meetings must be publicized & open to citizens. On Dec. 11, Mayor Baum, and councilmen Santos & Sammoury met in the back of these chambers after attending  the Election Committee and were accompanied by the City Attorney.   Someone overheard one of you say  “So do we have enough for a meeting?”

While I also saw the 4 of you talking, I did not intend to make an issue of it. However, it’s sadly ironic that tonight you’re intending to gut our Fair Campaigns Practices Act which addresses transparency, integrity and accountability in government.  Therefore, I am compelled to come forward about what appears to be a violation of our Sunshine Law and ask that the minutes from the December 11 private meeting be made available to the people of Longmont.

My hope is that the very partisan, lock-step voting pattern, as well as the mindless rejection of energy and environmental conservation programs is not a harbinger of more poor judgment to come.

Letter to the editor by Don Boyer

Occasionally the misperception presented by our local candidates force me to respond.  The latest is the assertion that Mayor Baum only spent $4000 of his own money to get elected.  He wants us to believe that, that’s why he said it.  In truth, he spent $13,380 to get elected (“Winners raised, spent more money in November election” Rachel Carter, Longmont Times-Call, December 4, 2009), but $4000, he says, was his own cash.

In fact, the four winners outspent the losers by an average of 4 to 1.  The four winners (Baum, Witt, Santos and Sammoury) officially spent $57,400 according to the article cited above.  While the losers (Benker, Van Dusen, Fissinger and Lange) officially spent $20,736.  This is a ratio of 4:1.

Baum outspent Lange ($13,380 vs. $4,838) by spending $4 for every $1 that Lange spent.  This is roughly true for all four candidates with Santos spending the most at $14,535.

This does not address all the funding that was not officially attributed to any candidate such as the push-poll that was performed against Benker.

Politicians count on us having short memories.  They count on us to go along with the winners who are in power no matter how they won.  They want us to believe that having an oversight committee for election funding practices is not necessary because they were able to circumvent the committee’s purpose so easily.

So the baby gets thrown out with the bath water.  That is what they want.

We have a city council that is bought and paid for by special interests.  We need to recognize that.  We need to examine the agenda of the new city council.  What are they doing for us?  What are they doing to us?  In the very least, we need not accept their version of the facts without severe scrutiny.

Don Boyer
Longmont, CO