Tag Archive for Longmont City Council

Longmont leadership lacks vision

Address to Longmont City Council, December 15, 2010

In 2009 I ran for an At Large seat on the Longmont City Council. I spoke of branding Longmont as northern Colorado’s Green City.

A core component of my campaign was the pursuit of a conservation, renewable energy business park. My website (www.kayefissinger.com) still exists and as part of the vision statements it says:

“I envision a light industrial/business park that can be the home of renewable energy and conservation businesses that will expand well-paying primary jobs in our community. “

Approximately 5,000 of Longmont’s voters embraced this idea by the votes they cast for me.

My opponents, who now sit on this council, pooh-poohed this pursuit of clean, green energy. They claimed that focusing on this as part of Longmont’s economic development was not warranted.

Since then, the community has seen this council reject an effort to hold a contest amongst businesses and others to encourage green residential improvements – at no cost to the city. We have seen this council reject matching funds from the state to add to the use of solar energy in Longmont.

The shortsightedness of this council and its long-standing group of economic supporters was made vividly apparent in an article in today’s Times-Call.

The print headline above the fold heralded Tech jobs on the way – Regional manufacturing park could employ up to 10,000.

The article covered the partnership between NASA and the State of Colorado to create a technology park likely to be about one million square feet of space with 10 percent committed to testing labs, and 90% for manufacturing. The park will focus on attracting small- and mid-size companies in the two fastest-growing industries in Colorado, aerospace and clean energy.

Towards this end Governor Ritter and NASA held a signing ceremony yesterday covering their agreement. The partners seek to establish this park in close proximity to CU, CSU, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the School of Mines.

Yet buried in the second to the last paragraph was a statement that Jody Cody of the Longmont Area Economic Council had not been contacted about potential sites for the park.

Not been contacted! Where is the initiative for which we have paid $150,000 to $200,000 to bring employers to Longmont? Are we to wait until we are contacted? This is unacceptable. Longmont has physical space. Longmont has talent. It should be aggressively pursuing the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of Green – Green Energy and its Green Money.

Has this council and its allies been sending the message that we don’t believe in green technology? That we will take it if it’s offered but we have no vision that includes its pursuit?

I certainly hope not. But if I’m wrong, there are those in our community who need a “come to Jesus” moment on this subject. We can’t win the game if we are not playing the game.

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.

Longmont power brokers launch perpetual electioneering

Same hammer, different beat(down)

Longmont has, for decades, been governed in the interest of a few select individuals and companies. This long-standing oligarchy remained successfully unchallenged and comfortable until the fall of 2007.

The first hint of trouble for these power brokers occurred when the citizens of Longmont rose up against the annexation of the LifeBridge 350-acre project south of Union Reservoir. A petition for a referendum to reverse a Longmont City Council ordinance had never before been successful, so it was not initially taken seriously. But the signature-gathering effort produced almost one-third more signatures than were required to place the matter before the voters in a special election.

On the heels of this success, the citizens of Longmont elected a council majority with a view to a different future.

When the new majority took legislative and legal action to block Firelight Park and the LifeBridge project from annexation into Firestone, all-out war was declared on what they referred to as the Benker Bloc (after former City Council member Karen Benker) or the Bloc of Four. These properties and developments were owned by members of city power brokers, chiefly developers and real estate special interests, many of whom are also members of LifeBridge Christian Church.

From that point forward there was a fierce determination to reclaim Longmont for the interests of the few, rather than the many. The rhetoric talked about “taking back Longmont.” The current mayor’s wife Stephanie Baum even had a blog with that name.

The first front in this war was the Longmont Times-Call. The conservative politics of the Times-Call has never been a secret. (See “Is there a bias? You tell me.”)

Out of hours of council discussion on a variety of topics, the Times-Call published a constant drumbeat of strategically chosen topics prominently placed above the fold with headlines chosen for their negative implications. Quotes within articles continued its derogatory objectives, and slanted coverage was given to positions that the paper opposed.

Letters to the editor were selectively placed to enhance the political position of the Times-Call and of those in the community and on council that it supported. Opinions of the community were further manipulated by the timing of OpEds solicited and printed.

The Times-Call hammered mercilessly on the “Benker” council.

After the November 2008 Democratic mandate at the national level, conservatives recognized that they could be headed for a permanent minority. At the local level, the heavy artillery appeared from both within and outside Colorado targeting the swing community of Longmont.

Operatives and their money came from D.C./Virginia, Montana, and from the Tom DeLay organization, Coalition for a Conservative Majority, who made no secret of its focus and targeting.

Scott Gessler, Republican candidate for Secretary of State, manufactured a lawsuit against the city and its Fair Campaign Practices Act. The LFCPA established sensible contribution limits and provided for greater transparency and disclosure. Only 19 words were struck from the Act because of the court’s temporary restraining order.

The Times-Call created a political improvised explosive device of its own with its court challenge of council executive sessions for legal advice on the annexation lawsuits—knowing full well that council actions were legitimate.

These strategies and tactics were very effective in agitating the public.

Rabidly anti-environmental and property rights absolutist organizations like Western Tradition Partnership (WTP) and Coloradans for Economic Growth bankrolled the attack campaigns during the 2009 election season. The winning candidates claim they had neither connection with, nor knowledge of, the activities of the WTP front organization Longmont Leadership Committee. If you believe that, then I have some beachfront property along the Gulf coast you might like to see.

Upon election, the new majority needed no other votes than their own to force settlements of these lawsuits, effectively using taxpayer dollars to reimburse campaign activities that placed them in office. The $182,000 dispersed to their endorsers to “settle” the lawsuits give a whole new meaning to publicly-funded campaigns. ($100,000 to LifeBridge/Firestone, $68,500 to the Longmont Realtors Association and Western Tradition Partnership plaintiffs and concealed donors, and $13,500 to the Times-Call.)

The incredible irony is that Mayor Baum and his troops have claimed and continue to claim that citizens’ free speech rights have been violated by the LFCPA. Given the content of the mailers that Longmont voters received from Longmont Leadership, that would be humorous if it weren’t so deplorable. The new majority has voted to dismantle the portions of the Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act that provide for the most transparency, accountability and enforcement that is free from political influence.

The new council and those it represents want opposing speech squelched. They floated a balloon that popped when they sought to limit and rearrange the timing of the Public Invited to be Heard section of council meetings.

However, the best way to silence opposing voices is to remove them altogether from the council where their views receive a weekly airing. And that’s exactly the objective. The remaining three council members have been targeted for extinction. Sarah Levison received the opening shot across the election bow by blogger Wrongmont Rodriguez in the Times-Call on May 22nd.

The objectives, the strategies, the tactics are now exposed. This cat is out of the bag! The community will no longer stand for a repeat of the politically deplorable behavior from the take-back-Longmont crowd that has occurred since the 2007 election. Elections do, indeed, have consequences.

A Bully as an Archetypal Destructive Leader

The following Abstract is republished from the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies website. It has particular relevance to the Longmont City Council leadership.

A Bully as an Archetypal Destructive Leader

1. Michael G. Harvey,University of Mississippi Bond University, Australia
2. M. Ronald Buckley, University of Oklahoma
3. Joyce T. Heames, West Virginia University
4. Robert Zinko, East Carolina University
5. Robyn L. Brouer, Hofstra University
6. Gerald R. Ferris, Florida State University

ABSTRACT

Leaders do not necessarily have the best interests of the organization in mind when they make decisions. Many times, leaders treat their own personal goals as more important in relation to the goals of the organization and frequently adopt a short-term decision horizon. Thus, leaders become destructive and make decisions for their own good at the expense of the organization. This article examines the bully as a leader and how the bully creates a dysfunctional environment where the bullied, the observer, and the organization suffer negative impact due to the decisions made by the bully. The externalities of bullying (i.e., unintended explicit and/or implicit consequences of bullying activities on the members of the organization) are discussed to highlight the importance of examining the spillover impact of bullying activities in organizations. In addition, the authors propose a method to address the negative impact of those who engage in bullying on the organizational as a whole.

http://jlo.sagepub.com/content/14/2/117.abstract

Baum: Voters’ (Buyers’?) Remorse

Not what the public expected

No one's singing along

Tuesday city council meetings continue to be a challenge to the digestive system. And the reason for this is the colossal mistake the community made last November when it elected Bryan Baum as the city’s mayor.

After the cameras have been turned off and before the recorders are turned on, the true Bryan Baum surfaces.

The difficult issue before the council on Tuesday was the ordinance limiting open carry of firearms in government buildings. Despite a preponderance of speakers at Public Invited to be Heard (PITBH) who saw this ordinance as a Second Amendment issue (though Supreme Court rulings support the ordinance), discussion amongst council members made it apparent that the council was poised to pass the ordinance into law.

Dictators don’t like to lose. But since Longmont governance isn’t an on-the-books dictatorship, Baum found himself democratically challenged.

Over and over and over again he stated his positions opposing the ordinance in spite of the fact that it was clear he was not going to get his way. He even interrupted his right-hand man Council Member Gabe Santos who made a compelling argument in favor of the ordinance. His only ally was CM Katie Witt. Because Baum could not face reality, a consistent condition for him, the discussion proceeded ad nauseaum.

I’ve attended nearly every council meeting since November 2007. It is only since Bryan Baum assumed the mayor’s chair that our council meetings have been acrimonious and humiliating for the city. Former Mayor Roger Lange was a gracious man who always allowed his fellow council members to raise questions and present opinions before he offered his own. Not Baum, it’s not only his way or the highway, it’s his way first and foremost, last and only.

Tuesday’s agenda was considerable. That prompted Council Member Sean McCoy to ask for a point of order when the discussion was no longer productive. Not surprisingly, Baum threw yet another of his typical fits and insisted that he should have the floor to say anything he wants for as long as he wants and as many times as he wants. He was losing and he just couldn’t stand it.

Eventually a vote was taken passing the ordinance (5-2) and eventually the council meeting ended. But that wasn’t the end of it. Oh, no. Baum couldn’t wait to have it out with CM McCoy. McCoy was having a reasoned discussion with Santos when Baum stormed up to him, calling him a name that rhymes with the nickname for Richard that is often a synonym for the term. And if that wasn’t sufficient, McCoy was threatened with retaliation if he ever raised a point of order (“interrupted” him) again. There was more, but I didn’t hear it all.

At Final PITBH, a member of the community who attends most council meetings spoke in dismay that Baum and Witt didn’t see the merits of an ordinance that would serve as some measure of safety for the city’s employees and residents who come to city facilities to do business or to attend council meetings. Exercising his first amendment rights, this individual chastised both Baum and Witt for the likely support their votes would garner with the NRA.

Baum couldn’t have that either. So he shanghaied the speaker after council for daring to speak out against him. So that he wouldn’t be overheard, Baum pulled the man aside and read him the riot act. Now how’s that for diplomacy and treating members of the community with respect! And this was far from the first time Baum raked a member of the public over the coals. That’s a story far worse and for another time and place.

Compare this behavior with the massive dose of high fructose corn syrup that is the mayor’s dance of self-aggrandizement at the beginning of each council meeting. Do not misinterpret, those who are celebrated are deserving, but that’s not what prompts the mayor’s smiles and handshakes. Mayor Baum, most people can discern the difference between genuine praise and caring and opportunistic grandstanding.

So here’s some good advice to weather the Baumbastic storm until November 2011, stock up on Reglan and take it 30 minutes before the Council meetings convene, whether you’re watching on television or in the halls of government.

Open, transparent, fair and just Elections?

Open, transparent, fair and just Elections?(Note:  After the paragraph wherein Mayor Baum was quoted in the Times-Call and the topic turned to Western Tradition Partnership, Council Member Witt sought to interfere with the speaker’s address.   The Speaker responded, “I am exercising my freedom of speech, Council Member Witt.”  She then proceeded with her prepared remarks.)

Address to Mayor Baum and Longmont City Council:  May 4, 2010

On your agenda this evening is one of the most important pieces of legislation that City of Longmont can consider.  You are to decide whether Longmont will have open, transparent, fair and just elections or whether the interests of those who would control our local government will be able to exercise their privileged positions and do so even more under the radar of full disclosure.

Today’s article in the Times-Call left me incredulous. That justification to abandon Longmont’s efforts to provide transparency to our local representative democracy defies moral foundation, is unprincipled and plays into the hands of those who believe they have a birthright to control government to their own personal, corporate and ideological gain.

Mayor Baum, you are quoted as saying that, “We are a target (to sue); we have been identified as such.  We’re labeled now, and we have to be really careful because we’re on everybody’s radar screen.”

And who is this “everybody” to which you refer?

The lawsuit brought against the city last year by Western Tradition Partnership was an unscrupulous and cynical strategic attempt to gain control of the Longmont City Council by radically conservative forces both out-of-state, within the state and indeed by local powerful political interests and their toadies.

Organized as a 501c4, Western Tradition Partnership can simply create an entity and have the sources of their funding unknown to anyone without a federal case and court order.  Its money can come from out of the country, around the nation, and locally by cowards who want to keep their public image as untarnished as possible.

Republican Scott Gessler was the attorney for this lawsuit debacle.  He drools at the possibility of using his attacks on Longmont as a platform for election to Colorado Secretary of State, a position that would allow him to influence our state elections in the manner of Katherine Harris in Florida in 2000 and Ken Blackwell in Ohio in 2004.

Previous mayors of Longmont, Republicans Julia Pirnack and Bob Askey, joined this suit as well as the Longmont Area Realtors Association, and  unsavory blogger Republican Chris Rodriguez.

Four city council members benefited by the support of Western Tradition Partnership who funded Longmont Leadership who viciously attacked your opponents; the Realtors Association who endorsed the current council majority; and the aforementioned individuals who either endorsed or executed the dirty work.

The settlement you authorized used city taxpayer funds to reimburse the very organizations and people who provided most of the impetus for your election to office.

The people of Longmont must be made aware of the decadent undercurrent operating behind the scenes of Longmont and Colorado politics.  With the foregoing, now they are.

Twin Peaks Mall: Silence unlikely to be golden

Twin Peaks Mall - photo by Duane Leise

At the close of Tuesday’s city council meeting, Council Member Gabe Santos requested that City Manager Gordon Pedrow and Director of Economic Development Brad Power contact Panattoni, owner of Twin Peaks Mall, to determine the status of the Mall.

He indicated that he and other council members receive many emails and calls asking, “What’s happening with the Mall?”  Clearly, all in Longmont have concerns.  Historically, the Mall has been a primary source of city revenues through the sales taxes that it has generated.  The neglect of the mall, by the previous and the current owners, and the state of the economy have caused the mall to decline.

Almost before Santos finished his comments, Mayor Bryan Baum interrupted to explain that both he and Power had attempted to contact Panattoni on Monday and “have not had the courtesy of a return call.”  They did, however, identify the party who would be able to answer their questions.

City Manager Pedrow followed up with a phone call to Panattoni’s CEO, and he, too, has failed to return the City of Longmont’s call.   Perhaps the corporation needs to be sure that they all have the same story to tell in response to Longmont’s inquiries—and just how much of it to tell.

Santos then requested that if no word is heard within a week, a letter be written to Panattoni from Longmont’s Mayor and City council insisting that the city receive “something in writing that addresses our concerns.”

I, of course, have no tea leaves to read, but I do have corporate background in Public Relations and in human behavior.  The silence from Panattoni is very disturbing.

People and companies usually are motivated to publicize good news and reluctant to share news that reflects poorly on the organization or could impede its objectives.  This leads one to believe that they haven’t yet secured an investor to meet the terms for refinancing the debt Panattoni assumed on the mall.

The City of Longmont has a long history of giving development virtually anything it wants.   I have long wondered what unofficial promises were made in 2007 by the Pirnack administration to encourage Panattoni to purchase Twin Peaks Mall.  As they say in the gambling industry – “on the come”.

The previous majority along with Mayor Roger Lange had well-founded concerns about the nature of the Mall’s future development and the degree of financial involvement in this public-private partnership.  Their diligence served the community well, especially considering the financial meltdown that arrived in 2008.

The Mall became the political hammer used by the current council majority to win the November 2009 election.  Either these new members were extremely naive or they were fully aware of the unlikelihood of development in the near future and found this issue useful to attack their opponents regardless of the facts.

Had Longmont rushed into this partnership early, the damage to the city’s overall financial situation would have been critical.

Bond ratings are critical to municipalities.  They are important both to our ability to bond and to do so at favorable interest rates.  And reduced sales tax revenues that result from Tax Increment Financing over 20-25 years if projections are not realized may also be a gamble.  In the situation Longmont finds itself, this is almost assured.  Although there has been some up tick in retails sales, that by no means indicates that there is a market for new or redeveloped commercial retail.

The citizens of Longmont need open and honest information.  Political spin will not suffice, either from Panattoni or from the Mayor or city council members or from the city’s administration.

Will Panattoni default on its debt?  Will the mall be purchased at a fire sale?  Will a new buyer sit on the property as is until the market for redevelopment makes economic sense?  Will any future buyer prey on the community’s desire to have a healthy and prosperous mall to negotiate financial conditions for themselves at the expense of Longmont’s many obligations and needs?

Members of the Longmont community must recognize that Twin Peaks Mall is indeed private property.   Members of our community have no control over what businesses, anchors or otherwise, choose to locate in the Mall.  Potential businesses operate according to their own business models.  If the demographics and location do not follow those models and make financial sense, no forceful demands or pleadings will make any difference whatsoever.  Just because we want something doesn’t mean that we can have it.

Because of the uncertainty in commercial retail and the uncertain future over business financing, no one in Longmont should expect redevelopment anytime soon.  That’s hard to hear, but it’s the reality.

CAN YOU HEAR US NOW?

Can You Hear Us NOW?

Listen up Mr. Mayor

This is a second 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?

Looks like the Times-Call finally closed the Limits to Public Invited To Be Heard poll.

Here’s the final results:

(click to enlarge images)

Final tally: 500 votes (not bad based on other polls)

Ratio of ‘No Limits’ to the (obviously hoped-for) 30-minute limit?

3:1 – ouch

I do believe that’s a very, Very, VERY clear statement that the public disagrees with the Mayor about limiting free speech. (and his effort to ‘walk it back’ fooled no one)

So maybe our glorious new mayor should think before he voices his inner thoughts about the public’s right to free speech and ‘stewardship’ since it’s pretty clear he doesn’t have much of a clue about either of them.


Here’s the previous poll results:

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.