Tag Archive for Alex Sammoury

2013 Longmont election big win for Progressives

Dennis Coombs, Mayor of Longmont

Dennis Coombs, Mayor of Longmont

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

Two new members were also sworn in –

Polly Christensen

Polly Christensen

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

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

Jeff Moore

Jeff Moore

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

Well, I suppose we can hope

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

Polly had this to say about her note to Goff:

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

Longmont's self-proclaimed 'First Lady'

Longmont’s self-proclaimed ‘First Lady’

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

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

Longmont, you’re fracked. OK by Council

The following address was presented to the Longmont City Council on April 17, 2012 in response to the the “draft” dilling/fracking regulations. The Longmont City Council ignored the testimony and pleas of the community, the advice of four of its boards and commissions and advanced on a 6-1 vote a gutted version of the regulations to ordinance. Sarah Levison provided the protest vote.

Fracked behind closed doors

Fracked behind closed doors

This document of Longmont’s proposed oil and gas regulations shames this city.  And it should shame you.  But I suspect it won’t.  It is nothing more than a capitulation to the oil and gas industry and a betrayal of the citizens of Longmont.

As a home rule city, you have the legal opportunity to do much more.  You met in executive session on March 27 and April 3 to discuss draft oil and gas regulations and to receive legal advice and obtain instructions regarding the same.  It does not take a Philadelphia lawyer or a rocket scientist to determine when and where your decisions took place.  Tonight’s discussion is likely to be nothing more than a dog and pony show to once again pretend to the Longmont public that you are listening to their testimony, the evidence of the dangers of drilling within the city and the threats to human health, safety and welfare from fracking.

Our health, safety and welfare are constitutionally (both United States and Colorado) and statutorily guaranteed.  Yet our Democratic governor, our Republican attorney general and the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, the oil and gas industry sock puppet, prefers to thumb their collective noses at the people and smile all the way to the bank to deposit campaign contributions from their benefactors.  The same holds true of most members of the Longmont city council who occupy their seats by virtue of the financial assistance and dirty campaign tactics of Western/American Tradition Partnership and its local sympathizers who do not know enough or care enough to even protect themselves and their families.

It was no accident that American Tradition Partnership first showed its rabidly anti-people face in Longmont in 2009.  This organization, funded by the extraction industries and the Koch Brothers, knew the oil and gas industry was moving its way to the western end of the Wattenberg Field and the Niobrara Play and needed a Longmont city council that would “play” ball with them – pun intendedThey got it and they got more of it last year.  And now the people of Longmont are getting fricking fracked.

So you’ll sacrifice your personal integrity, the well-being of your community and the health and safety of your families on the altar of oil and gas profits and I suspect you’ll even use the nauseatingly familiar buzzwords of your political party to justify the decisions you made weeks, if not months, ago.

But don’t expect respect or support for your choices and don’t expect that the community will take your actions lying down – or bending over.

This is not over until the proverbial fat lady sings – and you can be sure that she is just warming up.

Coombs/Levison support drilling moratorium

I want to applaud Mayor Dennis Coombs for suggesting a 6-month moratorium on Hydraulic Fracking before the City Council. However, it is truly sad that only Sarah Levison voted along with the Mayor. Are these five dissenting Councilmembers not concerned about the health, safety and wellbeing of the citizens of Longmont?

At the Nov. 15 Longmont City Council meeting, a Firestone resident shared about 24/7 drilling operations behind her home – with lights, noise, and strong petroleum and rotten egg odors that occurred during and after the drilling of the well. She stated that her house vibrated all night long and there were 50 water trailers parked behind her home. The traffic from semi-trucks delivering water for fracking the well occurred all hours of the day/night. Would you call this a friendly industry?

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) escaping during and after drilling operations have been implicated as being carcinogenic, endocrine disrupters and nerve agents. Dr. Theo Colborn of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX), addresses the dangers from natural gas drilling in this video.

In Wyoming, the EPA has found a link between fracking operations and groundwater contamination.

I encourage you to watch the movies “Gasland” or “Split Estate.” These are both available at the Longmont library. What you’ll find is that fracking is not a benign method of drilling as the industry touts.

Is Longmont going to become a ‘Drilling’ sacrifice zone? I urge you to contact the council members that objected to a moratorium – Santos, Sammoury, Witt, Bagley and Finley – and tell them that it is not in our best interest to allow fracking in and around the City of Longmont.

Fracking — coming to a location near you

Plans are being prepared by city staff and others to allow drilling for gas and oil on Longmont properties.  The mineral rights involved are substantially owned by others with Longmont owning only surface land, although the city itself does own some mineral rights.

TOP Operating, a drilling firm, has already held a neighborhood meeting in conjunction with the city for those in the vicinity of Union Reservoir, Sandstone Ranch and the Sherwood property at County Road 20-1/2.  The company’s representative, Dale Bruns (of the LifeBridge/West Union development infamy) also appeared at the October Water Board meeting and Bruns and the owners of TOP Operating appeared at the Board of Environmental Affairs October meeting.

Cougar Land Services, a seismic survey firm that has requested a permit to conduct surveys on Longmont property, is expected to appear before the two boards in November.  The purpose of the seismic surveys is to locate additional oil and gas under Longmont properties.

The TOP Operating plan is to access 80 to 100 wells through five drilling pads located on the Bogott and Adrian water and open space properties west of Union Reservoir that are owned by Longmont, at Sandstone Ranch, on the Sherwood open space property and one additional site.  These plans include directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Drilling preparations could begin in as little as two to three months.

Frack You Longmont

Frack near Longmont? It's no fairy tale.

Mineral rights issues are complex. Those of you who have seen “Gasland” and/or “Split Estates” will understand that there can be surface land rights and mineral rights for the same piece of property.  Most landowners only own surface rights.  Federal and Colorado law actually permits owners of mineral rights to locate on surface-owned lands of others to drill for the oil and gas (mineral rights) that they own.  In most cases, property owners have acquiesced and leased to them — in some cases for revenue, in some cases for some control over location and/or the number of drills.  If these companies so choose, the can erect a vertical drill for every well.  Outrageous, but true!

While there can be many wells of oil and gas near each other, today’s technology allows for drilling directionally or horizontally to access several of these wells through single drilling sites.  Fracking now makes many of these sources economical for the oil and gas industry.  Fracking uses a combination of water, sand and a chemical cocktail to break apart shale rock and release trapped oil and gas.  Fracking is a serious threat to water supplies regardless of industry propaganda to the contrary.  There are also other environmental hazards with fracking.

About three weeks ago, Longmont voters received a telephone poll conducted by American Tradition Partnership (ATP), formerly known as Western Tradition Partnership (WTP).  Among their many questions was, and I paraphrase, “Would you be OK with oil and gas drilling on Longmont’s open space?”

American Tradition Partnership is rabidly anti-environmental.  They are funded by the oil, gas and coal industries.  Even more significant, the organization is amongst the nation’s best liars who have never had a relationship with shame, and likely never will.

ATP/WTP fully funded Longmont Leadership Committee in the 2009 Longmont election that conducted the ugliest political campaign in Longmont’s recent memories. That election ushered in a majority on city council that espouses a radical ideology. In this year’s election, American Tradition Partnership has openly endorsed Bryan Baum and Health Carroll and opposed Sarah Levison and Sean McCoy in Longmont’s upcoming election.

Mayor Baum raised the issue of Longmont’s mineral rights at the 2010 council retreat.  The subject was not openly resurrected after that time and most of us who are concerned about potential drilling wrongly assumed that the subject was going nowhere.  It is my belief that American Tradition Partnership has acted with the mayor and his block on council since the 2009 election, if not before.  The dots connect.  In essence ATP/WTP is receiving payback for the support provided to elect Baum, Santos, Witt and Sammoury.

This latest turn of events is appalling and our options are limited.  We are losing control of our city and our environment.  Let your voice be heard in whatever forum you have available or feel comfortable in using.

Don’t defile Longmont’s Open Space

In a recent Guest Opinion, I wrote about Western Tradition Partnership.  WTP funded a Longmont political committee that waged an ugly political campaign to elect Mayor Bryan Baum and council members Gabe Santos, Katie Witt and Alex Sammoury.

Western Tradition Partnership is primarily funded by the oil, gas and coal industries.  WTP is now known as American Tradition Partnership.

Last week ATP polled a substantial number of Longmont voters.  It was an extensive poll.  The poll clearly promoted Baum for mayor and at-large candidate Heath Carroll.

American Tradition Partnership is rabidly anti-environmental.   Halfway through the poll, a second agenda became evident.  Their questions about renewable energy were designed to push respondents to respond negatively to green energy.

But the question that should alarm all of Longmonters was this, and I paraphrase, “Would you be OK with gas and oil drilling on Longmont’s open space?”

American Tradition Partnership is calling in its chits.  It spent money to elect the above-mentioned candidates and now its secret contributors want something in return.

Over the next four weeks Cougar Land Services, already operating in Weld County, will seek permission to perform seismic surveys on our open space.   Make no mistake, this is a precursor to drilling with the belief that it will pass the next council.

Our open space belongs to the people of Longmont and must not be disturbed, defiled and degraded.

If you want to end this threat to Longmont’s open space, you have no alternative but to vote against Bryan Baum and those on his preferred slate.   Protect our environmental, recreational, agricultural and water assets from drilling and likely some hydraulic fracking.  Vote in Dennis Coombs as Mayor and return incumbents Sarah Levison, Brian Hansen and Sean McCoy to council.

This land is our land.

Expect outside influence with negative mailers in 2011 election

They did it before, they'll do it again

The slate of candidates for Longmont’s 2011 election is now determined. Technically, the races for mayor and city council are non-partisan races. That simply means that political parties and their registered voters do not determine candidates in a primary for a general election against candidates from competing political parties. It does not eliminate alignment with political parties or political philosophies. Nor does it mean that campaign tactics that we see in state and national elections will not occur.

The divisions that are so obvious at the national level exist in Longmont as well. They exist on our city council because they reflect the divisions in the Longmont community.

In the Longmont 2009 election, very large sums of money were funneled in support of the rightwing four-person majority of the current city council (Baum, Santos, Witt and Sammoury) by an organization known as Western Tradition Partnership (WTP). Such campaigns are not supposed to be “coordinated” but analysis of campaign reports from 2009 cast doubts.

WTP is rabidly anti-environment and is absolutist on the issue of property rights. They go well beyond belief in a free market into an orthodoxy that believes that if you must have government, its purpose should be of, by and for business interests to the exclusion of all else.

Western Tradition Partnership has surfaced around the nation, but mostly in the West, to target candidates with a “D” after their name or who are known or perceived be to a Democrat in any way, shape or form. The Montana Political Practices Commission stopped just short of accusing the organization of corruption and there was testimony to indicate that some of their money likely came from out of the country and found its way into American elections.

Western Tradition Partnership funded the Longmont Leadership Committee who waged a viciously negative campaign against Karen Benker and Kaye Fissinger. It went so far as to include Sean McCoy in their Longmont Leader “newspaper,” even though he wasn’t running in 2009. McCoy does not back down from deeply held convictions against Crony Capitalism. He is committed to clean, open and honest government. That is enough to put him on the radar of people and organizations that believe they have a birthright to power and government control.

WTP now goes by the name American Tradition Partnership. It is an IRS 501c4 tax-exempt, non-profit organization restricted by law from engaging in predominantly political purposes. But that hasn’t stopped it in the past and it won’t stop it going forward. IRS enforcement is virtually nil and when investigations are launched, they are well after the damage has been done.

Expect much more backdoor negative politics in Longmont’s 2011 election. The names may not be the same because past publicity has exposed them locally, statewide and nationally.

You will receive slick mailers that will slant truth and reality, if not invent outright lies. They did it before and they will do it again. They will target the three incumbents that have been on their radar since 2007 – Sean McCoy, Sarah Levison, and Brian Hansen. They will probably target Dennis Coombs as well – for no reason other than that he is challenging Bryan Baum, whom they adore because he embraces their orthodoxy and is a climate-change denier. Denying the realities and evidence of climate change is the first and foremost mission of WTP/ATP or whatever name it will be this time.

And don’t be surprised if independent mailers even seek to divide Longmont’s Democrats. These political committees know what political party you belong to if you’ve declared. There will be almost no limit to their strategies and tactics.

Money bought the 2009 elections and it will be used again to attempt to buy the 2011 elections. And they are counting on Longmont voters to be paying attention to anything or everything else and to rely on negative mailers to make their decisions about who should establish policies for their city. You will know which candidates they support by who is negatively targeted. By cui bono. Who benefits?

It’s not Longmont and its citizenry that they care about. It’s power for extreme and irrational causes and support for some very, very special interests, local and beyond.

Longmont’s ALEC impersonators

The following address was presented to the Longmont City Council at its July 26, 2011 meeting.

ALEC

Big money crushing the little people

ALEC. No, not Alex with an X; ALEC with a C

It’s a acronym. It stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council – a secretive front group of hundreds of corporations that are investing millions of dollars a year to write business-friendly legislation at the expense of the middle class, the working class and those in poverty.

ALEC develops and distributes model bills to state elected officials, with the intent those bills be passed in as many state legislatures as possible. ALEC has drafted more than 800 model bills for state legislators, including efforts to privatize everything from schools to prisons, to weaken workers’ rights, and to make it more difficult for citizens to vote,

ALEC develops model bills in task forces where only private business interests and legislators participate. Sound familiar?

ALEC is lobbying in state capitals across the country, all while claiming to the Internal Revenue Service that they are a charitable organization. By claiming to be a charity and calling participating legislators “members,” ALEC attempts to evade disclosure of its lobbying, allows corporate members to deduct their payments as charitable contributions rather than non-deductible lobbying expenses, and does an end-run around state ethics laws.

Longmont, a local home rule municipality, doesn’t have this level of sophistication. Nonetheless, the corporate business interests in this community and in surrounding communities are engaging in very similar practices. They only need to place a phone call to a like-mined council member, schmooze at the Chamber or the Rotary, and contact sympathetic staff members. And the results are fundamental ordinance changes that remove policies that benefit the environment and the community in general and replace them with ordinances that benefit a corrupt ideology and the bank accounts of developers, realtors and all of the businesses aligned accordingly.

The Longmont City Council has:

  • Eliminated Inclusionary Zoning and, as a consequence, has damaged irreparably the city’s Affordable Housing Program and the interest of not only future participants but those of current participants.
  • Eliminated storm water provisions knowing full well, and taking pride in the fact, that the State of Colorado lacks the resources to assure compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency requirements. In some cases, these permits have been reduced from $2000 to $50. Staff and certain council members are at risk of breaking their arms as they pat themselves on the back over this one.
  • And then there are the lawsuit settlements that have transferred nearly $200,000 of taxpayer dollars into the coffers of their ideological allies – Scott Gessler, LifeBridge Church, and Dean Lehman’s Times- Call.

There are other ethical affronts, but three minutes is insufficient to name them all. It’s a crying shame that Longmont has stooped so low and joined in principle with the likes of ALEC.

Gabe Santos: “I am not a liar”

Crooks of a feather...

Gabe Santos is channelling Richard Nixon

That statement by Council Member Gabe Santos at the City Council meeting of June 14th reminds me of President Richard Nixon’s televised statement, “I am not a crook.”

I don’t know if Gabe Santos is a crook, but I do know that he is a liar — no matter how much he protests to the contrary.

During the discussion of the amendment to the Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act that now allows for the first $5,000 in contributions and/or expenditures to issue committees to remain hidden, Santos decided to reference an earlier ballot issue. He had the gall to make the pronouncement that there was some doubt whether those signatures were gathered truthfully.

Santos was referencing the highly unpopular and undesirable annexation in 2007 of the LifeBridge development. Liars should not be allowed to have their lies stand unchallenged.

The following are my remarks at final Public Invited to be Heard.

Let me make something perfectly clear, especially to Mr. Santos and his friends and associates who leave comments to articles on the Times-Call or who otherwise write.

The referendum to overturn the annexation of the LifeBridge development garnered more signatures than needed — over 6,000 signatures. LifeBridge did a telephone poll to test the community waters and as a result pulled its application for annexation.

Your people, and they are your people, have taken to saying the signers of that petition were lied to.

The only people who are lying are those who make that statement.

It was that statement that prompted Santos to proclaim that he was not a LIAR. Sorry, Mr. Santos, you are not to be believed — on this and on any number of other matters.

Bag of Hammers

Your Tom DeLay tactics have been on display from the dais from the day you were sworn in. Most in the community won’t recognize them because you are slick, not to mention devious. The list could be longer, but here’s a start. You manipulate discussions and city staff with select questions that are intended to elicit only the responses that you want. And whenever possible, you attribute your motives to something the community would not likely reject, while concealing your true motives and intentions.

I’ve watched you and other council members for almost four years. I know mendacity when I see it. Mr. Santos, you and the rest of your cabal, reek of it.

You do Tom DeLay proud, Gabe Santos. Keep it up and you might end up a felon just like your former boss. He became overly cocky and now he’s facing a prison sentence.

Council oversteps legal authority

Baum Squad's advice for Longmont

The radical and extremist Longmont City Council majority of Mayor Bryan Baum, Gabe Santos, Katie Witt and Alex Sammoury have not simply overreached politically but have shamelessly overstepped their legal authority in their decisions to eliminate Inclusionary Zoning from the city’s Affordable Housing Program.

They have not simply eliminated the program from this point forward. They have gone back and nullified annexation agreements and homeowner contracts to satisfy the developers, builders and the Longmont Realtors Association.

Their actions have enormous consequences, the worst of which is to homeowners who purchased under the program. It is their intention to immediately remove ALL homeowners from their deed restrictions (whether for the 10-year period of for the permanently affordable homes). By removing these homes from the Affordable Program, they will become subject to tens of thousands of dollars in increased property tax assessments and as a consequence increased property taxes.

Each home’s circumstance is different, but according to Kathy Fedler, CDBG and Affordable Housing Programs Coordinator, the average increase in assessment is $26,000. That’s an average. Some homes will increase by as much as $60,000 raising their taxes by one-third.

Adding insult to injury, The Baum Squad is claiming that their actions are meant to “help” the people that participated. (It’s unfortunate that I have to use this term Baum Squad to describe these people, but they are all that the name suggests.) To support this ludicrous proposition there is one person — one person — who has groused because she can’t sell her home except to someone who is able to participate in the program, and she hasn’t been able to find one in the current housing market. This woman is young and should have anticipated that she might marry and move elsewhere within the 10-year period. Now she’s complaining because she doesn’t like the contract she signed.

Council Members Sean McCoy, Brian Hansen and Sarah Levison were not in support of any of this majority’s actions or intentions. Council Members McCoy, Hansen, and Levison, you do the community proud. Thank you.

This council majority is likely corrupt — at least insofar as their belief system is concerned. They are fundamentalists. Market fundamentalists. It’s a bible to them. They would make Ayn Rand proud. And every thinking person knows that woman was the epitome of moral vacuity, if not purely evil.

Chances are that there are only two people who participated in this program who have any idea what is about to befall them. The rest are going about their lives not paying any attention to what their city council is up to. They are assuming the best about their council, when they should be assuming the worst. Elections have consequences. And in the case of 2009, the consequences have been horrendous.

Those who have participated in the program will find out the hard way when this council codifies into ordinance what they have given to staff as direction. and they either receive some sort of after-the-fact notice from the city or the county assessor’s office.

Who will tell the people? I hope it will be more than Free Range Longmont.

Bryan Baum has announced that he intends to run for re-election as Mayor of Longmont. I hope that the Longmont community will realize by November that this man is the most unsuitable candidate for this office since Longmont’s 1920s.

The following are my remarks to council during the Public Hearing on Second Reading. The remarks were made before council took their most devastating actions that constitute an abuse of their legal authority.

The termination of the Inclusionary Zoning provision of Longmont’s Affordable Housing Program is driven by political ideology and by the “wish list” of certain favored members of Longmont’s developer and real estate community.

Because of the “Great Recession,” which was triggered by abuses within the financial industry, there is little to no need for new housing in Longmont. The new housing market may be suffering from a market with a large number of “affordable” homes; but these homes became “affordable” from the housing crisis that resulted from the financial industry meltdown, not from Longmont’s Affordable Housing Program or it’s Inclusionary Zoning provision.

Inclusionary Zoning is based on the concept that clustering lower income homes in a geographical area is unwise and potentially leads to social problems. The intermingling of low and moderate incomes in all new subdivisions is the more desirable approach to community outcomes, indeed it is “best practices.” This approach was endorsed by previous city councils, councils that most in the community would consider conservative The current council majority has moved the goal post past conservatism to radicalism.

Builders of extremely high-end homes have always had the option to provide cash-in-lieu-of the 10% set-aside that could be used to further the programs goals elsewhere in the community. Rainbow Ridge is the perfect example.

The move to terminate the Inclusionary Zoning at this time, and might I add before this year’s elections, is intended to clear the requirement for a time when new-home construction resumes and in the event that the then-sitting council is not amenable to the idea. The arguments about securing construction financing are nothing more than a smokescreen to justify the change. The inability of local builders to secure financing has nothing to do with Inclusionary Zoning. With or without Inclusionary Zoning, financing and credit are tight. Bankers and investors know there is no real new residential market at this time.

With the termination of Inclusionary Zoning future home purchasers will face difficulties, perhaps insurmountable difficulties, to purchasing the home of their needs. A buyer’s purchasing decision is driven by a number of factors. Disabled purchasers may have requirements that demand certain design features. Older homes typically place a greater financial burden on buyers because of the need for repairs, either initially or more likely during the early years of home ownership before an individual or family is able to accumulate the resources to support the repairs. The assertion at an earlier council meeting that $20,000 is required to make a new home complete was ludicrous. My personal experience with a new home under the program proves that.

The decision is done – for now. But there will be other councils at other times. And eventually resentment by the few will be dismissed and good judgment will prevail.

Council majority acts to hide campaign contributions

Scott Gessler

 

The Longmont City Council majority of Mayor Bryan Baum and Council Members Gabe Santos, Katie Witt, and Alex Sammoury adopted an amendment to the Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act that shields the first $5,000 in contributions to issue committees from disclosure to the public. These members of Longmont’s governing body accepted the rule adopted by Scott Gessler, Colorado Secretary of State, despite the fact that Gessler has been sued for exceeding his authority in rule-making and violating the Colorado Constitution.

Council Members Sean McCoy, Brian Hansen and Sarah Levison refused to support the amendment.

Baum, Santos, Witt and Sammoury leave no doubt about their collusion with Gessler, a collusion that began when Gessler and local Republican operatives sued the City of Longmont over Longmont’s Fair Campaign Practices Act. That suit resulted in the elimination of 19 words that had existed since 2001. The suit was brought as part of a strategic plan to remove Karen Benker from office and to insert radicalism into the governing of the City of Longmont.

To settle that suit, the council majority that was elected in 2009 paid $68,000 to Gessler. This decision, described as a “settlement,” had the consequence of enriching Gessler ahead of his run for political office.

Gessler sought the office of Secretary of State in order to manipulate elections in Colorado and he began his quest in Longmont. He has, since taking office, attempted to join the cabal of states governed solely by Republicans who are in the process of enacting legislation that suppresses voter turnout and disenfranchises those voters who are most likely to vote for Democrats.

The following is the speech I gave to the council during the Public Hearing on Second Reading of that ordinance.

On May 3rd I addressed this council on the subject of Longmont’s Fair Campaign Practices Act amendment regarding issue reporting and Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s rule-making on the subject.

I stated, “It is extremely suspect whether he even has the authority to do this. Law is made by legislatures and signed by governors. Secretaries of State are simply and only charged with carrying out law. Certainly they are free to offer opinions. But that is as far as they can go. They are not a legislature of ONE.”

On May 13th Gessler’s decision to set the threshold for issue committee reporting at $5,000 and to shield the first $5,000 of contributions and expenditures from disclosure became official.

The rule raises the threshold from $200, as defined in the Colorado Constitution. The Court of Appeals has already held that the Secretary of State has no authority to promulgate rules that add, modify or conflict with constitutional provisions.

On June 9th Colorado Common Cause and Colorado Ethics Watch filed suit against Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

The suit asserts that “The Secretary has exceeded his authority to administer and enforce campaign finance laws by dramatically increasing the constitutional threshold for regulation of issue committees. Purportedly in response to a decision of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on an as-applied challenge to campaign finance disclosure provisions of article XXVIII [28]of the Colorado Constitution, the Secretary adopted a rule that nullifies provisions of the Colorado Constitution and duly enacted statutes and replaces them with weaker disclosure rules enacted by the Secretary.”

Colorado statutes provide that “Any agency action that is arbitrary or capricious, contrary to a constitutional right, in excess of statutory authority, an abuse of discretion, unsupported by the record or otherwise contrary to law shall be held unlawful and set aside.” The plaintiffs ask the Court to set aside the Secretary’s unlawful action.

Luis Toro, Executive Director of Colorado Ethics Watch said, “The Secretary is under the mistaken impression that he has authority to rewrite campaign finance laws, not merely make rules to enforce those laws. Disclosure thresholds are clearly not within the authority of the Secretary of State to change.”

Jenny Flanagan, Executive Director of Colorado Common Cause concluded that “If allowed to be enforced, this rule would make it even easier for issue committees to get a measure on the ballot while never disclosing who is behind this measure and how they are spending money to influence voters.”

This city council is prepared to adopt the very provisions that are now being challenged in court. It would be prudent of this council to abandon this amendment until the matter is resolved in the courts.

Religious Right, growing political bully

Church should be separate from state.

Who would Jesus dominate?

A recent Americans United for Separation of Church and State survey of the top Religious Right ministries and groups in America revealed a tax-exempt fundamentalist [Dominionist] empire with an annual income approaching one billion dollars.

The Pat Robertson Empire

Christian Broadcasting Network
Budget: $295,140,001
Location: Virginia Beach, Va.

Regent University
Budget: $60,093,298
Location: Virginia Beach, Va.

American Center for Law and Justice:
Budget: $13,375,429
Location: Virginia Beach, Va.

Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism
Budget: $43,872,322
Location: Atlanta, Ga.

Regent University was originally founded to offer graduate degrees in areas Pat Robertson most wants to dominate: government, education, law, communications, psychology and ministry.

Regent University has a strong Colorado connection with a satellite campus in Colorado Spring.

More important is the Longmont connection. Regent University educated Greg Burt has been, and likely still is, a behind-the-scenes political operative for rightwing Republicans (Bryan Baum, Katie Witt, Alex Sammoury, Gabe Santos) who are now Longmont City Council members.

According to Americans United, “The Religious Right in America is lavishly funded and politically well connected. While the men who lead the fundamentalist Christian political movement hold different opinions about theology, they share a deep and abiding hostility to the separation of church and state. They seek to inject religion into public schools, obtain taxpayer funding for religious schools and other ministries, roll back reproductive choice and deny civil rights to gay people. And they enjoy extraordinary influence in Washington, D.C., and in many state legislatures.”

An array of presidential hopefuls and major congressional leaders is scheduled to appear at Ralph Reed’s “Faith & Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing” June 3 and 4 in Washington, D.C.

“I don’t think Ralph Reed has anyone fooled,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “He wants to forge fundamentalist churches and church members into a disciplined voting bloc and force political candidates to kneel before it.

Longmont’s current council majority are radicals

We are learning that the majority of our City Council members differ from the leaders of the recent past. Leona Stoecker, Julia Pirnack and Roger Lange were conservatives in the traditional meaning of the word. They were moderate, prudent stewards of our community. They also were well informed. I did not always agree with them, but I respected them.

In contrast, our current majority is radical and does not appear to be well-informed. For example, the majority voted to end the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, despite the fact a task force had recommended a moratorium to study possible reforms and the minority on the council urged that the ordinance be revised, not summarily ended. The mayor implied the ordinance had never been effective and said it isn’t fair to developers. Councilwoman Witt compared the ordinance to a failed recipe that should be scrapped. Councilman Sammoury suggested a new committee composed of bankers, developers, two council representatives and staff members to figure out what should replace the ordinance. The discussion revealed large gaps in basic information, but the majority, which included Councilman Santos, charged ahead to vote.

The ordinance was adopted more than 15 years ago under Mayor Stoecker and revised under succeeding mayors. It was one part of a housing policy designed to encourage a housing stock that meets the needs of the people who live and work here. The Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance was intended to ensure that people such as firefighters and teachers who work in Longmont could buy a home here and that these homes not be segregated in one part of the city.

It is truly radical to scrap one part of a housing program that has contributed so much to the quality of life in our city. Conservatives reform. Radicals tear things up by the roots.

What the hell is goin’ on with city council?!

It is often said that people get the government they deserve. I sincerely hope that this is not the case for Longmont. I hope it’s merely a matter of Longmont’s citizenry being asleep at the political switch, either out of habit or because the current state of the rightwing, corporate-induced economic meltdown has left them no time to consider events on the local stage more broadly.

The alarm clock has been ringing and there is no time left to continue to hit the snooze button. You do not own your government. A coup has occurred right under your noses.

It began in the 2009 election when the corrupt Western Tradition Partnership bought the council seats for The Baum Squad (Mayor Bryan Baum, Council Members Gabe Santos, Alex Sammoury and Katie Witt) with confidence that these four council members would do the bidding of the most radical elements of our society. Make no mistake that the money invested in the Longmont Leadership Committee for their trash campaign ran the gamut from locals who wanted to hide their political involvement to state, national and even evidence of international donations to Western Tradition Partnership.

If you didn’t see it coming, last night’s Baum Squad vote to abolish the Inclusionary Zoning Affordable Housing Program should make it impossible for you to roll over a go back to sleep. It’s time to take your community back from the robber barons who endorse the premise that “open for business” translates into “Longmont for sale to the lowest bidder.” Longmont belongs to YOU. Communities nationwide are losing their towns, cities and school districts by all manner of methods. Don’t let Longmont be one of the casualties to this regime change.

As a participant in the Affordable Housing Program and one who is extremely grateful for the opportunity that Longmont provided to me, I have been very outspoken on this latest issue. I spoke to council on April 5th and then twice last night (April 26th).

I defend this program not for myself because I have already used the program. I defend it for the many others who will need the program going forward.

Below is a transcript of what I said at Final Public Invited to be Heard. It’s time to tell it the way it really is, folks. Stand up and be counted.

I’ve been coming to these council meetings, almost every one of them, for nearly four years, and I cannot remember a time when I heard more B.S., buzzwords, spin doctoring, Tea Party/Republican talk and outright lies than I heard during the discussion of affordable housing tonight.

If the industry, the builders and developers are suffering, it’s not because of anything that we have done. It’s because of the financial industry. They played games. They came up with derivatives. Then they bet against themselves and came back with credit default swaps. Then they came crying to the taxpayers, “Oh my God, the sky is falling, the sky is falling.” And we bailed them out — with taxpayer money, so that they could get right back in the game and do it all one more time when the next bubble comes around.

What really happened here is that we have four members of city council who got together with their business buddies. Got the wish list from those same buddies. And they came back and started to redefine Longmont with principles that are to the right of Attila the Hun.

So I hope the four of you are very, very proud of yourselves tonight. Because I am very confident that there are a whole lot of people in this community who are saying, “What the hell is goin’ on with city council?!”

Thank you.

A whole lotta lyin’ goin’ on

It's a sucker's game

Longmont is due for an Airport Master Plan update. These occur every five to seven years and the last time Longmont’s plan was updated occurred in 2004. Having an update is not the source of the most recent Longmont controversy that has all the makings of the next LifeBridge-style dust-up. The argument has been threefold:

  • What should be covered in the updated Master Plan or in supplemental analyses?
  • Who gets a seat at the table and will opponents have a voice equal to supporters?
  • Is this study nothing more than cover for a decision to extend the runway that has already been made?

I don’t especially have a dog in this fight. I like airplanes and I’ve flown in several types of aircraft. I’ve flown in large commercial jets of varying sizes and I’ve flown in 10-seater business commercial jets, of the type that are imagined if the Longmont runway is extended. I’ve flown in four-seater prop planes. And I’ve even flown in a glider and a World War II plane used to lift the glider to the wind current. I thoroughly enjoy takeoffs and landings.

Two of the homes that I lived in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles were under the flight path to Burbank Airport. The home in the West Valley was no problem. I didn’t even notice – except when a jet was coming in heavy with the tell-tale whine that always made me wonder if the plane was in trouble. Living in the home in the East Valley which was closer to Burbank Airport, however, posed persistent noise issues – whether inside or out. It strained nerves and made it hard to hear. Fortunately, I’m a sound sleeper, but my mother wasn’t.

So I have empathy for those in Longmont who have huge issues with the skydivers, dread the addition of jets, albeit small ones, and even more are livid that Mile-Hi Skydiving has plans for yet another sky diving craft. On any number of scales, it’s a quality of life issue that impacts many over an economic issue that is has all the trappings of a pipe dream.

Beyond the merits of the issue itself is something that should bother all Longmont residents whether or not they live in an area that will be most affected by any expansion.

The City of Longmont is playing something of a shell game on this issue. To put it another way: A whole lotta lyin’ is goin’ on over the Airport Master Plan and the ultimate outcome.

In spite of what certain council members are saying on camera at council meetings, there is a majority that has already made up its individual minds. That majority is Mayor Bryan Baum and Council Members Katie Witt, Gabe Santos, and Alex Sammoury. They deny it, but an Open Records Request by CARE (Citizens Against Runway Extension) revealed otherwise – not to mention a number of meetings earlier this year where a runway extension was promoted to groups in the vicinity of the airport by none other than the Mayor Baum and Ms. Witt. Baum doesn’t like being cornered so he’ll try to bully his way out of this, as he’s done before.

Mayor Baum and Council Member Witt undoubtedly thought they were getting out ahead of any problems and planned to grease the skids in favor of an extension in hopes of clear sailing. Flawed strategy and flawed judgment call.

And as far as city staff, here’s how that works. Index fingers get raised in the wind to determine its direction and the weather report is given accordingly. What is not welcome is either omitted or spun towards favorability. After all, there are jobs to be protected, especially in today’s market. It wouldn’t be prudent to offend Power. Firings and instructions to fire can hurt.

The FAA, already charged with facilitating expansion of airports, will be giving “cover” to a council who has already boarded this flight.

Until and unless Mayor Baum releases a list of businesses who (A) did not come to Longmont because its airport runway was too short, and (B) will come to Longmont when it has a longer runway, it’s all just wind and the turbulence is justified. Numbers have been thrown around, but they never have names attached to them. It begs the question, do they even exist.

Presumably John Cody of the Longmont Area Economic Council would know who these companies are – if they exist. I challenge him to name names – all of them. It’s time for him to put up or shut up and cease pretending that this information is confidential.

Whether council, staff or LAEC, this issue is too important to too many residents for them to accept “Trust me” as an answer.

This new council, whose majority I refer to as The Baum Squad, has an agenda. They will carry it out and only pretend to be concerned about public sentiment. They like to say that they want to make Longmont “business friendly” or “open for business.” That’s a euphemism for saying that Longmont is For Sale – at foreclosure prices – for whatever business wants, business will get.

Mayor Baum, you are a liar.

Longmont Mayor Bryan Baum, lying to the public

Factually challenged or just morally bankrupt?

It’s unfortunate that this has to be said so forcefully and without equivocation, but Mayor Bryan Baum, your statements to the press on Friday, July 23, 2010 leave no other reasonable choice.

Next weekend the Heaven Fest Christian revival and music festival is scheduled at Union Reservoir. This organization and its producer Worship and the Word filed an application for a Use of Public Places permit in November 2009 nearly immediately after the results of the Longmont city council and mayor’s races were known.

In the ensuing months many members of the community appeared before the Longmont City Council and at several different meetings and spoke during Public Invited to be Heard against allowing this event to take place. Still others sent emails to members of the council and city staff objecting to this event being held at Union Reservoir, a sensitive ecosystem for many wildlife species. Concerns came from a broad cross section of the community as well as members of a church and members of the Audubon Society.

Members of the community almost begged the Mayor and Council to take this major policy decision from the hands of Longmont’s City Clerk (and city staff) and deal with it openly and directly. You, Mayor Baum, along with Council Members Gabe Santos, Alex Sammoury and Katie Witt, insisted that the matter could and would be adequately addressed by staff and there was no reason for the Council to make a statement or take a vote on this matter.

On one occasion a 30-minute formal presentation was made to you and council in three-minute consecutive segments by ten members of the community. The presentation covered all aspects of the issue from economic benefits, to quality of life issues including traffic and noise, to the environmental and wildlife impact.

The effort and presentation was roundly ignored. But it certainly was not minimal and, yes, it certainly was vocal.

Yet you, Mayor Baum, are quoted as follows in the Times-Call in Saturday’s article, ludicrously titled “City is closer to heaven.”

Here is what you said:

He [Baum] added that a “vocal minority” has voiced concerns about the festival but “nobody [emphasis added] brought those concerns to any council members to bring up at council meetings.”

“If there was a great dislike or disdain for what was going on, we wouldn’t be doing it,” he said.

These were not misquotes, nor misunderstandings, as The Denver Post reported the same content in a more abbreviated article.

Mayor Baum, you intentionally lied about what is a matter of public record. It is in council minutes, on the video recordings of council meetings on DVDs at the library and the council meetings were broadcast several times by Comcast on then-Channel 3. There is a record “everywhere” of what took place.

Why you would think lies of this magnitude and so easily verifiable would go unnoticed and be accepted defies comprehension. Are you a pathological liar or are you psychologically challenged in some other way? Or are you simply a man with no moral compass and no comprehension of ethics?

You have a demonstrated history of insulting members of the public and fellow-members of this city council, sometimes openly and sometimes in private. You have a demonstrated history of throwing a tantrum when votes do not go your way. You have a demonstrated history of retaliating against same.

You, Mayor Baum, lack the honesty and integrity necessary to serve this city. Resign, and let us begin to repair the damage you continue to cause.