Tag Archive for longmont politics

Elect candidates who stand against fracking

Cast your ballot for those who will best protect Longmont's right to local control.

Vote, checked with red pencilAs we approach municipal elections Nov. 5, I believe it is critical that voters understand where each candidate stands regarding two lawsuits the city is currently defending. Although each lawsuit pertains to the community’s ability to regulate oil and gas operations within its corporate boundaries, each resulted from a separate approach to address foundational principles of local government in Colorado.

Home rule, citizen initiative and local control are key concepts found in the Colorado Constitution, the Longmont city charter and in years of practical application. The reason these basic principles of government are so critical is simple. When properly applied, they put key decisions about local communities in the hands of the people most heavily impacted, local residents. Under our charter, the citizens elect the City Council, which has the obligation to adopt appropriate policies to protect our health, environment and quality of life. This includes appropriate regulations for all land uses.

If and when residents do not believe the elected city council members are appropriately protecting the community, citizens have the right to initiate appropriate actions. This is what happened in 2012 regarding oil and gas operations. The ability to adopt appropriate land use regulations is a basic right of home rule cities in Colorado and a fundamental expectation of citizens. As you will see below, the primary opponents of local oil and gas land use regulations in Longmont are Gov. John Hickenlooper and the multi-billion dollar oil and gas industry. That is why city council elections this year are absolutely critical.

The first lawsuit is an attempt to thwart the city council’s right to reasonably regulate land uses in Longmont. It was filed by Gov. Hickenlooper via his industry-dominated Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). The oil and gas industry quickly joined the governor’s legal action so that it could throw its deep pockets of cash into the fight to have the state, not the city council, regulate oil and gas operations within Longmont.

The governor felt compelled to take legal action against our community because a majority of the Longmont City Council dared to enact land use regulations that prohibit oil/gas operations, including hydraulic fracturing, within residential neighborhoods and requires these operations to be at least 750 feet from schools, hospitals and day care centers. Since the governor finds these rather timid Longmont regulations to be too restrictive of the heavy oil and gas industry, it verifies how little protection he believes our citizens deserve.

As of today, the city is vigorously defending its home rule rights to reasonably regulate the heavy industrial activities associated with oil and gas operations. However, a future city council could stop defending this lawsuit and capitulate to the governor and the industry. At least one candidate, mayoral challenger Bryan Baum, has publicly stated that he is in favor of settling this lawsuit. If you believe in local control, you need to know where the other candidates stand.

The second lawsuit stems from 2012, when a group of Longmont residents became convinced that a majority of the elected city council was not adequately protecting the community from the impacts of oil and gas operations. The citizens initiated a city charter amendment that prohibits fracking operations within the city boundaries. Approximately 60 percent of the voters agreed with the amendment last November and it is now a part of the city charter. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) promptly filed legal action challenging Longmont’s city charter. The governor quickly joined forces with the industry.

I hope you see the pattern of state government and industry joining forces to attack local control. The opponents of local control hope that the combination of the power of state government and the deep pockets of a politically connected industry will intimidate small communities and citizens. They think bullying local government serves their interests. It will not work in Longmont if we elect the right city council members.

Both of these lawsuits address important local control issues; therefore, they must both be vigorously defended. The one addresses the powers of a home rule city as provided for in the Colorado constitution. The other defends the right of citizens to initiate charter amendments or legislation when their elected representatives fail to act appropriately. These rights and powers of our local community are in the hands of the next city council. I encourage each voter to understand the candidates’ position and cast your ballot for the ones who will best protect our community.

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

 

Response to Denver Post’s interference in Longmont

The following is an expanded version of the response to Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll’s misrepresentation of Question 300, which prohibits hydraulic fracking and its waste products within Longmont city limits.

Colorado constitution

The Colorado Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to health, safety and wellbeing.

Recently Vincent Carroll wrote a column about the citizen-driven ballot measure, Question 300 that bans hydraulic fracking within the city limits of Longmont.  Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont agrees with one comment by Mr. Carroll:  Yes, this is a “bellwether vote in Longmont.”  However, there is little else about Carroll’s characterization of our effort upon which we can agree.

The citizens of Longmont didn’t choose to be a leader in the effort to assert local control over health, safety and wellbeing.  That role was thrust upon us by an industry that has no interest in our community except to extract its last dime of profits at our community’s expense.

When representative government is inadequate or a failure, the Colorado Constitution not only provides a remedy, but also provides a guarantee of citizen health, safety and welfare.

The citizens of Longmont are under attack not only from the oil and gas industry, but from our own governor.  Governor Hickenlooper is already suing us over regulations that are considerably watered down from what most in the Longmont community were expecting.  He’s also promised to sue us again if Question 300 passes.  Hickenlooper should be ashamed of himself.  But he isn’t.  He would rather serve as the spokesperson for oil and gas than represent his constituents.  He’d rather make commercials for oil and gas, and pretend to drink fracking fluid that is not even being used by the industry.

Our Longmont is a group of Longmont parents, business owners, retirees, teachers, medical providers, people from all walks of life and all socio-economic demographics.  We are working to protect what we hold dear: our families, our health, our quality of life, our town.  In fact, many of us did not even know what fracking was when, one year ago, it was announced that an oil and gas company was going to frack only a stone’s throw from our homes, our children’s school and our reservoir in Longmont.

Our research revealed that scientific evidence points to the harms that fracking posed to our children, our health and our property.  Months of scientific testimony and public input was presented to our city council with deep and heartfelt pleas to protect us from the myriad dangers of fracking: the cacophonous noise, property damage, threats to our children’s health and safety, earthquakes, air pollution, and the threats to surface and groundwater from well-documented evidence from the state’s own Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Eventually, we were faced with a choice:  abdicate our Constitutional rights to protect our family’s health, safety and welfare or work to keep Longmont a great place to live for our families today and for our children’s and grandchildren’s future families.  We chose the latter.

Over 100 volunteers worked for six weeks in 100 degree temperatures to collect 8,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.  The measure will give Longmont residents the right to vote on whether they want fracking 350 feet from their homes, schools and reservoir or to prohibit this method of oil and gas extraction outright.

We have now learned that the oil and gas industry has spent over $330,000 and  has contributed over a half-a-million dollars to defeat this measure.  They have outspent our citizen-led effort to protect our homes, safety and property 30 times over.

This money has come from 28 contributors, including Halliburton, Chevron, Encana.  Many of these oil and gas corporations aren’t even based in Colorado, but instead, hail from Texas, Oklahoma and Florida.  Not one – not one Longmont resident has contributed to the opposition’s campaign.

Why are out-of-state oil and gas companies spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to strip parents, small-business owners, retirees and teachers in Longmont of their constitutional rights?  Why does the oil and gas industry feel the need to buy an election so that they can have free reign to put dangerous, industrial activity next to our homes and our children’s schools, or anywhere else their bank accounts desire?

While we wait for honest answers to these questions (and honesty is not a trademark of the oil and gas industry), we will continue what we have always done: being neighbors, parents and taxpayers in Longmont.  And we will not stop working every day to protect our loved ones from hydraulic fracking.

Behind-the-scenes story of oil and gas in Longmont

Who's behind all the oil and gas influence? Western/American Tradition Partners

Who’s behind all the oil and gas influence? Western/American Tradition Partners

Once upon a time not too long ago, our terrific city was growing and evolving. Not in the usual sense of the words, but in forming a fresh identity that would lead us forwards in this new century. That is the best, most meaningful definition of “home rule,” albeit not the legal one.

And then along came the oil and gas industry. The behind-the-scenes story began in 2009 when Longmont first lost control of its elections to outside interests with big money to spend. An organization known then as Western Tradition Partnership, now American Tradition Partnership, slipped into Longmont elections more or less under the radar. It fully funded a political committee who attacked candidates that it perceived as being unreceptive to their intended future agenda.

WTP/ATP is an IRS 501c4. It doesn’t have to reveal its donors. But its mission makes it clear just who those donors are. ATP is funded by extraction industries and backers who support that agenda. What do I mean by “extraction industries”? In a nutshell – mineral extraction. And for the purposes of Longmont, that means oil and gas. And that means fracking.

WTP (ATP) funded a slate of candidates to redirect the vision for Longmont. Their motive, vague and blurred at the time, was to pave the way for oil and gas drilling by means of hydraulic fracturing inside Longmont; and in doing so, to transform our fair city into something we would not recognize or want.

Bryan Baum, a former mayor now serving as a proxy for the oil and gas industry, made his motives clear in early 2010 when he stated that he wanted the city to get into the oil and gas business by exploiting its own mineral rights. I watched for council agenda items on minerals. They did not appear. But they WERE there – hidden from view, without the knowledge or consent of the Longmont public, but as part of an ATP-sponsored and council majority endorsed trajectory to invite the oil and gas industry to bully its way into Longmont, leaving Longmont citizens and the city to pick up after them.

The oil and gas industry’s intention to drill in Longmont came out of hiding in an ATP election survey in October 2011. And with that, “all hell broke loose.” It was staff’s intent to bring a TOP Operating conditional use permit before the Planning and Zoning Commission in November 2011. That, as they say, would have been that. Longmont would have been fracked and we wouldn’t have known what hit us.

As the people of Longmont became aware of what was in store for their hometown, over and over they said, “Oh, no you don’t. This is OUR Longmont and we get to say whether or not we get fracked.”

Over 8200 people signed the petition sponsored by Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont to place Question 300 that prohibits hydraulic fracking and fracking waste disposal inside Longmont city limits on our ballot. Now there are those with big, big industry money behind them who are trying to silence those voices and hand over the keys to this great town to the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas companies and their trade associations (28) from all over the country and even Canada have contributed nearly a half million dollars to defeat the will of the people of Longmont. How high will that total go? One million dollars? More?

You’ve seen their eight full-page ads with seven mayors pretending to care about the health and safety of Longmont, all the while shilling for the industry who would pollute our air and water and threaten our property values by using false and deceptive quotes from politicians they’ve never supported (and likely never will) to manipulate Longmont voters. They’ve spent or accrued almost $338,000, including television ads and eight mailers. They’re determined to stomp Longmont into submission.

In 2009 and 2011 another industry spent huge sums of money (over $600,000) to make Longmont believe that they cared about us. Longmont voters saw through that scheme and sent them packing.

Pay no attention to the “wizards” on this smokescreen. Tell the oil and gas industry and their local puppets, former or current, that you want them to go away and stay away. This is our Longmont that they are trying to destroy and we won’t allow that. Constitutional and moral rights are on our side.

Vote Yes on 300 to stop them from fracking Longmont.

State sues Longmont to drill in residential areas

On Monday, July 30, 2012, the State of Colorado filed a lawsuit in Boulder District Court to prevent the City of Longmont from implementing a ban on drilling for oil and gas in the city’s residential neighborhoods. The suit was filed by Jake Matter, Deputy Attorney General, on behalf of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).

The COGCC has consistently refused to acknowledge the right of local governments and their citizens to exercise control over heavy industrial activities in their communities. The suit claims that “No possible construction of the disputed provisions of the ordinance can be harmonized with the state regulatory regime.” The state wants the court to throw out the city’s regulations without so much as a trial.

This suit is a stab in the back of every resident in Longmont. The state has essentially said, “We don’t care what you want. If the oil and gas industry wants to drill next to your homes and schools, we will allow it. It’s our right to let them and we will take you to court to shut you down.”

This is a very disturbing, although predictable, action by the State of Colorado. The state, its agencies, and its elected officials have sworn to uphold the Constitution of the State of Colorado, which guarantees citizens’ rights to health, safety and well-being.

The citizens of Longmont should not and will not be intimidated or bullied by any government entity. Voters in Longmont must stand firm in November and vote for the Charter Amendment, The Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act, sponsored by Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont. The amendment prohibits the hazardous practice of hydraulic fracking and waste injection wells within Longmont’s city limits. Fracking is harmful to children, families, the community, and the environment.

It may be legal, but it’s not right!

Some, including some in the press, are confusing the actions of the Longmont City Council on oil and gas drilling within Longmont with Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont‘s charter amendment (The Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act). If passed in November, the Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act would ban only the relatively new extraction process of directional hydraulic fracturing within city limits. It is not a blanket ban on fracking.

The many volunteers who collected more than 6,609 signatures do not consider themselves “anti-frackers,” as they are often described. They are ordinary residents who want to make sure Longmont’s people, particularly children, are protected and that schools, parks and property values are not compromised in the rush to get the last of the fossil fuel. The science is not yet in on the long-term effects of fracking.

There’s another issue, too. Should local communities have any say in what the state mandates for them? Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont thinks so. The Colorado Constitution allows home rule cities that right. We all realize that the oil and gas industry has vast sums of money to promote their interests whereas we at the local level are counting on volunteers and small donations to counter their oft-repeated and misleading claims. There comes a time when people realize that what is legal is not necessarily what is right. The abolishment of slavery and the inclusion of women as voters are testament to that principle.

Sometimes laws have to be challenged. Interestingly the lawsuit recently initiated against the city is not to be confused with this citizen-led ballot initiative. That lawsuit is the state’s protest against City Council’s updated regulations.

If you’d like to help Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont succeed in November, your can volunteer through our website.

The fact that the lawsuit came so quickly should be fair warning to Longmont voters that we are being unfairly stomped on and we need to stand up against the challenge.

Longmont Charter Amendment Advances to Ballot

Today, Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont (Our Longmont) announced that its charter amendment, the Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act, has qualified for the November ballot. The Longmont City Clerk, has declared that Our Longmont’s signatures are “sufficient” to place the Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act, before the voters on November 6, 2012. In doing so, Longmont will be the first city in Colorado to vote on banning the controversial oil and gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

“Today is a historic day for the City of Longmont and for the State of Colorado as Longmont leads the way to prohibit fracking within city limits,” said Michael Bellmont, a member of Our Longmont. “Fracking threatens our constitutional rights to protect our health, safety and property. We believe Longmont citizens have the right to decide whether this dangerous and destructive practice should take place next to their houses and their children’s schools.”

In early June, Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont launched a petition drive to amend the city’s charter with the support of Food & Water Watch. In order to qualify for the ballot, 5,704 signatures of Longmont registered voters are required. With the dedication and hard work of nearly 100 volunteers, members of Our Longmont submitted over 8,200 signatures to the Longmont city clerk on July 20, 2012.

“The democratic process is alive and well in Longmont despite threats from the State of Colorado and the oil and gas industry to deny our city and its residents local control. Longmont citizens emphatically support their right to vote on whether or not fracking should take place next to their homes, schools and reservoirs,” Bellmont said.

“Our Longmont is a grassroots organization of Longmont citizens who believe that every citizen has the constitutional right to health, safety and wellness and that they are entitled to a voice in the guarantee of those rights. We are your neighbors, friends, and co-workers. We are business owners. We are retirees. We are mothers and fathers. We are ordinary Longmont citizens,” said Bellmont.

The state of Colorado is attempting to sue the city of Longmont over its oil and gas regulations. This is a blatant attempt by Governor Hickenlooper, an outspoken cheerleader for the oil and gas industry, to strip local control from Longmont so that his oil and gas friends drill next to houses, schools and parks in Longmont.

Longmont area native and Food & Water Watch’s Mountain Region Director Sam Schabacker has been supporting the efforts of Our Longmont. “Food & Water Watch is honored to help Our Longmont in its commitment to protect the Longmont community’s constitutional right to health, safety and welfare,” said Schabacker. “The actions that Our Longmont has taken are indeed trailblazing. If the Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act is passed by Longmont voters in November, Longmont will be the first community in Colorado to ban fracking,” Schabacker said.

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, is a group of concerned citizens from throughout Longmont. We believe that Longmont has a right to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of our community. Our goal is to preserve the quality of life in our exceptional city by protecting the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens. By so doing we will preserve our economic vitality, our home values, our water, parks, wildlife, lakes, trails, streams, open space, and recreational areas for ourselves and future generations.

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume are safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.

Coloradans are talking….

Washington, can you hear us now?

The following letter was delivered to the Washington, D.C. offices of Colorado Senator Mark Udall and Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. The voices in the groups who signed the letter are strong and determined. It is hoped that our senators, as well as all other elected officials, will recognize that the issues raised in this letter are signature issues of our time and that elected representatives of any and all offices as well as political parties will be held accountable by the people.

As the oil and gas industry moves full speed ahead with the fracking boom, residents across the state are organizing to protect their health, environment, property values, way of life and communities form the impacts of oil and natural gas extraction, including fracking. Two Colorado mothers, Jodee Brekke of Denver and Diana Caile of Boulder, traveled to Washington, D.C. to join a nationwide coalition of citizens, communities and organizations for the Stop the Frack Attack events, beginning with Lobby Day on Wednesday, July 25, and culminating in a mass rally and march, with a crowd of 5000, on Saturday, July 28. Ms. Brekke and Ms. Caile met with staff at Senator Udall’s and Senator Bennet’s offices to deliver a letter imploring the senators to discontinue their rhetoric about the benefits of oil and natural gas extraction and to move for a national moratorium on fracking. The letter was signed by 262 Coloradans, as well as 17 grassroots groups and nonprofits from throughout the state, representing thousands more. Additionally, approximately 1500 people from throughout the country and even globally signed on to the letter in solidarity.

To:  Senators Udall and Bennet

From: The following Grassroots Groups

Earth Guardians
Erie Rising
East Boulder County United
Boulder County Citizens for Community Rights
Commerce City United
Food and Water Watch
GrassRoots Energy activist Network (GREEN)
Commerce City Unite N.O.W.
Adams County Unite N.O.W.
Be the Change
Protect Colorado Water
350 Colorado
Green Valley Ranch Fracking Resistance Group
Denver Community Rights
Lakewood Fracktivists
Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont
What the Frack?! Arapahoe

 

Colorado is under assault from the oil and gas industry. As the industry moves full speed ahead with the fracking boom, residents across the state are organizing to protect their property values, way of life, health, environment, communities, and future generations from the impacts of oil and natural gas extraction.

The heavy industrial, toxic process of oil and natural gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing:

  • uses millions of gallons of water per frack, turning our water into toxic waste that must be removed from the hydrologic cycle.
  • is creating a potential environmental and human health catastrophe by pumping toxic wastewater into injection wells.
  • contaminates surface/ground water and soil, spews toxins into our air, and despoils our landscape.
  • threatens the economic benefit we receive from tourism and our healthy, outdoor lifestyle branding.
  • is harmful to our health.
  • releases high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • disrupts our communities with heavy semi-truck and tanker-truck traffic (some of which carry radioactive material), noise, lights, and industrial level diesel exhaust.
  • externalizes millions of dollars in damage to our infrastructure.
  • brings with it increased crime and pressure on the housing market from transient worker populations.
  • reduces property values.
  • threatens the real estate market as lenders are increasingly unwilling to extend mortgages or refinance properties near wells, and as residents choose to leave by short selling or having their properties foreclosed on.
  • is a boom and bust activity that leaves communities devastated.

Natural gas has received a lot of attention as a bridge fuel. Natural gas is not a bridge to renewable energy, but just another dirty fossil fuel. In fact, the turn to natural gas is hurting investments in renewables. The only way we’re going to get to a healthy, sustainable energy future is by investing in healthy, sustainable energy. Promoting unconventional natural gas extraction is turning your back on renewable energy, on your constituents who shoulder the externalized costs, and on future generations.

The oil and gas industry is being propped up by taxpayer money in the form of subsidies, tax breaks, exemptions from environmental protection laws and externalized costs shouldered by the people of Colorado and those in communities threatened by this industry across the country. We expect you to fight for the health, safety and welfare of your constituents over corporate profits.

In light of new information coming out almost daily about the above mentioned impacts of oil and natural gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing, and considering full-cost accounting, as well as the fact that the industry plans to export, we implore you to discontinue your rhetoric about the benefits oil and gas extraction confers and move for a nationwide moratorium on the practice of hydraulic fracturing.

Grab the Rope and Pull

Stock Exchange - sxc.hu

Grab the rope and PULL. You have to do SOMETHING.

Most credible economists (I give Paul Krugman a lot of leeway) insisted that the stimulus wasn’t big enough. As it is, it consisted almost entirely of tax breaks and spending cuts. He did it the way a Republican would have done it in any other year that a Pug sat in the White House. Then it didn’t work, and the Pugs cried about it. Big surprise there.

Austerity is the Big Lie of the day. I’ll never forget Cheney saying “Reagan showed us that deficits don’t matter.” The truth is that fractional reserve banking is what creates the growth- it is the engine in Capitalism that makes the wealthy so wealthy. If you expect your house to be worth more someday or expect your 401k to grow, it’s because of fractional reserve bank practices. It’s not necessarily bad, but when all the spending goes to the top, all the cream is raked off by those who already own all the butter, and they game the system to create artificial ‘cream’ while the rest of us are forced to shave off more of our income so that they can continue to acquire acquire acquire, then yeah, the system is broken.

The Democratic party is infused with corporate money – baaaaaad! BAAAAD!

But you can’t pretend that it’s an equal split. There is no one in the Republican party like Alan Grayson or Elizabeth Warren or Al Franken or Maria Cantwell. It’s a tug-of-war, not a free-for-all, because we only get two parties. That sucks, I want power sharing and instant run-off elections. Then I can vote Green and be ecstatic about my choice. But that isn’t going to work; it’s one of the flaws in our supposedly perfect Constitution. You have to grab one end or the other. If you stand on the sidelines and say “I hate that rope,” you’ haven’t contributed a goddamn thing.

What do I always say? Pick a Democrat (or Republican if you can find one) that you can stand behind and then stand behind them, whether they’re in your district or not. I send Elizabeth Warren a buck or two when I can, even though I can’t vote for her. Grab the rope and pull.

Someone resolved to stake out ground in the “middle” is like the eskimo who pitched his tent on an ice floe. Come morning, the center has moved.

Mothers Project heads to D.C.

Local moms to attend fracking rally in D.C. and deliver letter to Colorado senators signed by constituents statewide

As the oil and gas industry moves full speed ahead with the fracking boom, residents across the state are organizing to protect their health, environment, property values, way of life, communities, and future generations from the impacts of oil and natural gas extraction, including fracking. Two Colorado mothers, Jodee Brekke and Diana Caile, are traveling to Washington D.C. this week to join a nationwide coalition of citizens, communities and organizations in a mass rally on July 28 and to hand deliver a letter to Senators Udall and Bennet signed by constituents statewide. The name of the rally and the message in the letter are the same: stop the frack attack.

“Since our elected officials and government agencies aren’t protecting our basic human and constitutional rights to clean air and water and from numerous other threats imposed on us by the oil and gas industry, then we need to call them to task,” said Ms. Brekke. Ms. Caile said, “the state is suing communities that want to keep the heavy industrial, toxic process of fracking away from neighborhoods and children’s schools. It doesn’t belong there. Period. Our government should be protecting the people of Colorado, not corporate profits at our expense.”

The Mothers Project - United for Sustainability

The Mothers Project, Inc. is launching in Colorado and is hosting the letter to the senators, written by local mothers, on their website. Founded in March, 2012, by Angela Monti Fox, mother of Josh Fox, creator of the documentary Gasland, The Mothers Project is a coalition of mothers advocating for immediate, full-scale investments in renewable energy and opposing extreme fossil fuel extraction, including fracking and its attendant impacts. Currently active in New York and Pennsylvania, where there is widespread opposition to fracking, The Mothers Project provides support to grassroots groups fighting to protect their health, environment and communities.

In addition to individual signatures, seventeen grassroots groups or nonprofit organizations fighting to protect communities through Colorado have signed on to the letter. To view the letter and add your name, go to TheMothersProject.org and click on the slide that says Calling On Mothers at the top. Send inquiries to press@TheMothersProject.org.

Participants in the D.C. rally include Bill McKibben of 350.org; Allison Chin, Sierra Club President; Josh Fox, Director of Gasland; Dr. Catherine Thomasson, Physicians for Social Responsibilities, plus several citizens from affected communities.

American Exceptionalism?

Signing the Declaration of Independence

Government, of by and for the people.

In the late 19th Century, there was a Frenchman (who may or may not have actually lived) named Nicolas Chauvin, a zealous nationalist who believed everything French was superior, merely by virtue of it being French. From his name, was derived the word chauvinism. When I hear conservative talkers and Fox News anchors drone on about “American Exceptionalism,” it makes me cringe. They are the modern-day Nicolas Chauvins, only they aren’t French, they’re Americans. And as was Chauvin, they’re wrong. Dead wrong.

A few months ago, I met with some friends over dinner at an extremely busy restaurant. The place is always packed, with a line of people lined up outside, waiting to get in. In my party of 9, was a couple from Wales, here visiting friends and touring the states from coast to coast. After we finished our dinner, we all walked outside to say our goodbyes, where I spotted a man sitting in a concrete divider in the middle of the street. He only had one leg. Laying beside him was a pair of crutches, and he was muttering to himself incoherently. He was obviously mentally troubled, and the people milling about in front of the restaurant completely ignored this derelict of a human being wasting away before them, as if he were part of the landscape.

And indeed, he was. For me personally, this was mortifying. As for my friends visiting from Wales, it was embarrassing enough to me that they witnessed it, but to have them also see how unremarkable it seemed to the passersby, the shame of it all seared into my brain. I’ve been to Europe several times, and with the exception of the more third-world ex-communist bloc countries, you rarely see beggars anymore, and you never witness a disabled person discarded like a piece of trash. If someone in France, England or Germany has problems as horrendous as this guy apparently did, they’re generally scooped up by social services, and given the appropriate help. This guy could have keeled over and died there that night, and nobody would have known about it until the vultures started circling.

So when I hear this term; American Exceptionalism, being bandied about by the right-wing (and in truth, by some on the left who are too cowardly to refute it and call it what it is: patriotism on steroids), it boils my blood. In truth, the term is a thinly disguised euphemism for American superiority. This is all part of the flotsam and jetsam leftover from the 2000 election, and the hubris that emerged from the neocons after 9/11. That period when “Freedom Fries” replaced French fries, when restauranteurs all across the country were pouring Bordeaux wines into gutters, to protest that nation’s refusal to participate in our little Iraqi adventure, and as a way of poking our collective finger in the eyes of all the other countries who doubted America’s military and political hegemony.

The truth is, American superiority is 100% pure, 24 karat bullshit.

Is America exceptional in many ways? Absolutely. Our national parks, our beautiful coastlines, our rivers, our mountains, the Bill of Rights… I could go on for hours. But could anybody say that our national parks are more beautiful than those of say, Canada? Our coastlines are more beautiful than those of Brazil, Italy or Turkey? Our mountains are more beautiful than the Swiss Alps or the Andes? The Bill of Rights is superior to the Magna Carta? No. Every nation on the planet can in some small way claim to be exceptional. Even the most poverty-stricken nations of the third world have at least one or two unique bragging rights, and NONE of them suggest superiority over all others. Only Americans do that. We just love to remind everyone that we have the most powerful armed forces and the biggest arsenal ever known to man. Yet in all our boasting, we’re quick to skirt such stories such as how our military was misused by its civilian leadership to invade and utterly destroy a nation of 25 million people who posed no threat to us. And, in all our “superiority,” we brush aside as unimportant, the fact that we allow disabled, mentally disturbed citizens to rot in the gutters of otherwise pristine cities.

A truly enlightened nation would have very different priorities. The feeding of our poor and infirm should be at the top of that list. Healthcare for citizens lying in the street, should come before tax breaks for billionaires and subsidies for oil companies. Universally available and affordable education for our children shouldn’t come at the expense of a fleet of stealth aircraft that will (hopefully) never be used. And, perhaps unique amongst us, any truly exceptional nation would NEVER have adopted an electoral process that relies so heavily on electronic voting machines provided by partisan corporate interests!

The fact is, this country now has the highest healthcare costs, the highest infant mortality rate, the worst gender inequality, the highest murder rate and the highest incarceration rate of any developed nation on the planet. Exceptional, indeed. Where do these defenders of American superiority stand on that?

At one time or another, many empires, monarchies and nations have laid claim as the most powerful on Earth. Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome, France, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Holland, and probably a half-dozen others whose names are lost to history. And the one thing they all had in common, is that not a single one of them could ever conceive of a time when they weren’t the most powerful, or they didn’t have the biggest armies, or their armadas didn’t rule the Seven Seas. Yet, their power did indeed wane, as will ours. I would argue that the process has already begun, but the folks on the wacky right who measure America’s strength via military prowess, aren’t looking at the big picture. They’re only looking at who has the most muscle, while ignoring — or indeed, causing — our withering backbone.

No nation can survive with an undereducated populace, or with a two-class system; the haves and the have nots… or by spending nearly 60% of its discretionary budget on military hardware. As surely as Rome fell, so too will we one day. And for those who yammer on about American Exceptionalism, in this case, I would tend to agree; we’re exceptional amongst the nations today due to our path of self-annihilation. And I find it ironic beyond words that the right mistakes such obvious weaknesses as strengths.

I love this country, warts and all. But when these faux patriots boast of our power and pressure our politicians to co-opt their talking points, it shames me to have to acknowledge them as compatriots. Is America great? Yes, it is. Are we exceptional? Yes we are, in many ways — as is Guatemala, Bhutan, Gabon, Peru and Laos. But are we superior to any other country on the planet, by any sense of the word? No. And it’s high time we call out this American Exceptionalism meme for what it is; a pompous, overbearing display of nationalistic arrogance, bordering on fascism. American Exceptionalism as defined by the right is a bald-faced lie.

Longmont city government, how transparent are you really?

The following address was presented to the Longmont City Council at its Tuesday, July 17, 2012 session.

Photo by FreeRangeLongmont.com

Chris Rodriguez – wrong for the Airport Advisory Board

I would like to speak to you about transparency in government and the internet.

A couple months ago the Longmont Airport Facebook site posted a message about Mile-Hi Skydiving sending their critics bumper stickers reading “I Love Airplane Noise”. This website is unofficial – meaning that the content is not managed by city staff. I was curious to know who’s behind the proverbial curtain. That content would seem inappropriate if it came from a city official. Tim Barth, the airport manager, said that he didn’t know who manages the site, but he was certain that it was no one connected with the city.

As it turns out Chris Rodriguez manages that website. On May 10th he wrote that members of “Quiet Skies” had demanded the website be deleted. As the leader of Quiet Skies, I can assure you that is an outright lie. What could be his motivation for making this claim? For the record, the Mile-Hi jump planes are creating a very real public noise nuisance. But with ethical leadership, there can be peace between the airport and the local community.

So, who is Chris Rodriguez? You may recall his recent editorial criticizing the anti-fracking petition that’s being circulated. He is a blogger and activist who manages the LongmontPolitics website where he refers to the “lefty loonies”. On his LightningRod blog he encouraged harassment of the “pitchfork vigilantes”, including myself, who dared to complain about the jump plane noise.

But more importantly, Chris Rodriguez serves as the Chairman of the Longmont Airport Advisory Board. That board meets right here in these chambers, and he sits right there where the mayor sits. As a quasi public official, he holds an influential position over airport policies that affect the community.

He has every right, as an individual, to advocate for special interests and say whatever he believes, no matter how disconnected from reality. But Chris Rodriguez has no business serving on the Airport Advisory Board.

Oil and Gas Law Unsettled

Colorado constitutionIn a letter to the City of Longmont, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association insists that the citizens of Longmont do not have the right to protect their property, safety and health from the negative impacts of hydraulic fracking. Industry’s refusal to respect these inalienable rights is premised on their insistence that we must instead “respect the primary regulatory authority vested in the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).”

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont believes that the Colorado Constitution gives all citizens the right to protect their property and live safe, healthy lives.  It is the authority to which all of Colorado’s statutes must be subordinated and thus it does not give the oil and gas industry the freedom to damage our property values, endanger our families or pollute our air and water.

Despite protestations to the contrary, case law covering the interaction between the COGCC, Colorado’s designated agency for oil and gas development, and local governments is unsettled law.  Colorado case law is a mixture of rulings that apply to dissimilar forms of municipal government. Such disparate rulings have been cobbled together and used by the oil and gas industry and the COGCC to intimidate municipalities from exercising their responsibilities to protect their citizens and their communities.

Municipal government comes in many forms, among which are counties, home rule cities and statutory towns and cities, each of which allows for different degrees of authority and independence. Among the powers afforded home-rule cities like Longmont is the authority to regulate the use of land on the basis of its impact on the community or surrounding areas and to regulate the use of land so as to provide for its orderly use and the protection of the environment in a manner consistent with constitutional rights.

The “findings” included in Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont’s proposed amendment to Longmont’s city charter identifies another constitutional protection.  “The Colorado Constitution confers on all individuals in the state, including the citizens of Longmont, certain inalienable rights, including ‘the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness,’ Color. Const. Art. II, Sec 3.”

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) violates these constitutional rights by threatening our health, endangering our children, diminishing property values and contaminating our water and air.

Frequently cited case law has not ruled on the constitutional protections afforded Colorado citizens but instead has focused on the statutory authority delegated to the COGCC.  Also, new technology and the effects of multi-well pads using directional high volume fracturing have not been considered in past case law.

The COGCC, through the Attorney General’s Office, and the oil and gas industry have been seeking a court ruling on complete preemption of municipal control for years.  The courts have refused this interpretation.  As recently as the 2012 Colorado legislative session, a senator sponsored a bill (SB-88) that would have accomplished that objective for the oil and gas industry.  The bill was killed in committee.

The arguments that are being put forth by the industry and COGCC are intended to intimidate local governments and dissuade Colorado citizens from asserting and claiming their Constitutional rights.  Such arguments are inaccurate and blatantly indicate that the issues surrounding oil and gas drilling in Colorado have not been legally settled.

Neither the courts nor the COGCC have adequately addressed the Oil and Gas Act’s legislative mandate to “foster the responsible, balanced development, production, and utilization of the natural resources of oil and gas in the state of Colorado in a manner consistent with protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources” (emphasis added), the first and presumably overarching restriction on all other directives contained within the Act.

The proposed Longmont charter amendment seeks to restore constitutional and statutory protections for our “health, safety, and welfare.”  It does not seek to ban all drilling for oil and gas within the Longmont city limits, but to ban only one specific, particularly harmful extraction method, hydraulic fracturing, in order to guarantee and preserve constitutionally protected individual rights to health, safety and well-being.

Michael Caddell: Shameless

STOP ROMNEY!

Romney’s just another elephant fart salesman.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach recently declared to the press that lawyers were ‘shameless’ in requesting fees in excess of $675,000 from the federal judges who drew up the redistricting maps that Gov. Brownback and the state legislature could not produce on time.

I would like to remind readers of the more than $640,000 in lawyers fees to defend the unconstitutional and draconian abortion clinic regulations passed by our “free market” loving lawmakers in 2011.

We should not forget the final bill yet to come for Dear Old Phill Kline and his the revolving door of lawyers that is piling up in his defense as former attorney general. The great defender of the “preborn” has been throwing Kansas taxpayers money to his cronies toward keeping his lapsed Kansas law license. The bill isn’t in yet, but coupled with the millions he expended while in office to persecute women and their doctors for legal abortions it promises to be sizable. A fact most Kansas reporters have yet to get paid to find out the figure.

Paraphrasing Donald “Rummy” Rumsfeld we do have a “known unknown.” That is the $75,000 to Art Laffer for his layover in the flyover zone of Topeka. Good Old Boy Art on his way to Tennessee declared Gov. Sam a genius in cutting state jobs, eliminating income taxes, etc. Bush #41 called Laffer’s methods ‘voodoo economics.’ Art declared victory and announced to the country that Kansas is having a “revolution in a corn field.”

Then there is the $31 million Gov. Sam sent back to DC over the health insurance exchange program, and the million or so lost from matching grants for the arts, a small matter for people who only see golf courses. He informs all that the future of the Supreme Court tested Affordable Care Act hinges on the November election and running out of office what many Kansans call “that n-word socialist in the White House.”

Now with 60 and more Kansas counties declared drought disasters there will be lines of heavily subsidized livestock feed farmers with their hands out for federal loans and crop insurance claims. Hateful of the federal government this somehow rings of hollow hypocrisy.

Then our Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a plastic surgeon, travels to DC to testify, at taxpayer’s expense, against “Obamacare” before a partisan stacked committee in the House of Representatives. He won’t benefit from “Obamacare”, not one cent as a cosmetic surgeon. What does he care if the poor get health care?

Then he returns with Sam who is fresh from the air fair in Great Britain to crank out a press release, lauding the virtues of K. U. Med becoming a national cancer research flagship, as a “job creator” of all things. Of course, they forget to mention just how much hated federal money is pumped each year into the place.

And they want us to vote for that Bozo with the car elevator in one of his mansions? I smell a big, stinking elephant fart coming our way from Topeka again, and we must pay for it.


Michael Caddell is a writer living in Nortonville, KS who runs Fightin’ Cock Flyer.

Falling Through the Cracks

STOP ROMNEY!

The 1% are the real poor – spiritually bankrupt.

From my years of work in providing care for disabled people. I am well aware of the number of people who “fall through the cracks” of our vaunted welfare system. When one is disabled and cannot work, for whatever reason, it is “the Christian thing to do” for society to help them avoid the inevitable ruin for them and their families. However, for many the system as it currently exists falls far short of that target.

One family man of my acquaintance has fallen through that proverbial crack and, as the result his very life and the continuation of his whole family is endangered. As the result of construction work injuries that broke his back, coupled with the extreme hard physical effort expended in working as a roustabout in the gas fields, he could no longer do that kind of work and had to give it up.

As a man who was only in his thirties, he determined to make a living by doing odd jobs, which he did for a period of years as his health continued to decline. As the recession crept up, it was harder to make enough money to support his family so his wife of twenty years began working in the office of a provider of services for the disabled and, for a few years, made enough money to sustain the family while he played “Mr. Mom” for their two sons and worked part time at any odd jobs he could get.

They managed quite well for a few years but, eventually, the strain began its own vengeance and he developed ulcers which sometimes caused him intense pain. The recession deepened and his odd jobs became harder to find and ceased. His wife’s employer, a contractor for the state, began to be squeezed by state budget cuts until they were forced to cut the salaries of their employees. She helped her husband apply for his Social Security disabilty benefits. His application was denied because he had not been working under “covered” employment for too long. Then application was made through the Social and Rehabiliation offices. There they were told that the wife’s income alone would only allow them to receive food stamps.

Then their oldest son turned eighteen, graduated from high school and then left home. With one less person in the house, the food stamps disappeared! This year, the younger son turned eighteen and then graduated from high school. Now he can’t even qualify as a dependent for tax purposes unless he goes to college, which he would love to do. However, in the process of evaluation, it was learned that this proud graduate of the special education classes of our school system failed the entrance examinations because of a “reading comprehension problem.” Sorry, but the scholarships and additional fees paid by his parents are non-refundable!

As problems are wont to do, they keep getting worse. Two days after he finally received a diagnosis of duodenal ulcers, the kind that are prone to rupture and cause one to bleed to death internally, he was moving a very heavy object in his own yard and caused a groin rupture. So, here they are with no medical insurance coverage, a gross family income which cannot pay all their expenses, and the threat of death hanging over them. Unless they take the option offered by the Republican politicians by showing up in a hospital emergency room and “free-loading” the necessary treatment, proving that it is no answer at all, the man is simply living on borrowed time. They know that the collection agency will hound them until hell freezes over in their efforts to collect every single dime. The irony of this situation is that, except for the fact that our Governor has stated that he would not accept the offer made by “Obomneycare” to increase the levels of poverty in Medicaid adjudications, they could, at least, receive the needed medical care under its provisions.

Is it the prevailing theory of the Republicans that this is the way our America should run? Should we give tax breaks to the filthy rich and let the poor just die because they are not able to do sufficient work to maintain life? Is this what the many generations of my family, including five of my brothers, fought and many died, to preserve for posterity? Is this the society we want to leave for our own descendents? If this is not a nightmare, I never want to wake up.

This writer is an octogenarian who has spent a half century working with handicapped and deprived people and advocating on their behalf while caring for her own working-class family. She spends her “Sunset Years” in writing and struggling with The System.

Setting history straight

Jerry Day accused Tom Lopez of rewriting history for criticizing Republicans and went on to accuse five Democratic presidents of starting wars. Such nonsense must be answered. World War I started in Austria in 1914 with an assassination. The U.S. entered in 1915 after German submarines sank unarmed passenger ships, primarily the Lusitania, with Americans on board. Woodrow Wilson did not start the war.

We owe to the victims to get the story straight.

World War II started with the invasion of Poland by Germany in 1939. The bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and invasion of the Philippines with the loss of thousands of Americans brought us into the war. The total was much greater than on 9/11. Franklin Roosevelt did not start the war.

North Korea invaded the South in 1950, threatening to drive American and South Korean troops into the sea. Harry Truman did not start the war.

John Kennedy was considering withdrawal from Vietnam when he was assassinated. I will pass on the rest of this one, including Nixon’s secret bombing of Cambodia.

The Bosnian War started in 1992. Clinton did not get involved with the NATO bombing campaign until 1995. Clinton did not start the war.

Daddy Bush invaded Kuwait and Iraq in 1990 to save American oil interests from Saddam, who had invaded Kuwait, but failed to completely crush his war machine, allowing him to fully recover and slaughter thousands of his people after Daddy Bush urged them to revolt in 1991, and they did. They were hung out to dry.

Junior finished the job, at horrendous cost, by invading Iraq in 2002. It was justified by claiming Saddam was involved in 9/11 and possessing WMDs. Both have been proven to be lies.

Indeed, Mr. Day, some people do try to rewrite history.