Tag Archive for longmont

Longmont voters entitled to Home Rule

Editor’s Note: Gordon Pedrow served as Longmont City Manger for 18 years prior to his retirement in March of 2012.

Nov. 6 is Election Day. Be sure to cast your ballot for the sake of your city, county, state and nation. Tucked in amongst the myriad partisan races is Longmont Ballot Question 300. This question is worthy of your careful scrutiny because it is a proposed charter amendment.

Is this what you want in Longmont?

Ballot Question 300 deserves careful attention for several reasons: It will amend the city charter, it is an important public health and quality-of-life issue, and it was initiated by thousands of your friends and neighbors. Usually, we look to the City Council to appropriately act to protect citizens from negative impacts of heavy industrial activity. However, when a majority of our elected representatives fail to carry out their responsibilities, the city charter and state constitution provide means by which the citizens can initiate actions they believe necessary to protect their community.

Beginning last November, the City Council studied how best to regulate the negative impacts of oil and gas operations within Longmont. This is an industry that is poorly regulated and coddled by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the state agency charged with regulating its operations in order to protect public health and the environment. Until June, when it came time for the City Council to adopt its comprehensive regulations, it appeared that most council members were in favor of acting to protect the community from oil and gas operations. However, at the last moment, under extreme pressure from the industry’s big-money lobbyists and state politicians, a majority of the City Council capitulated to the industry and refused to support comprehensive regulations. When it really counted, only Mayor Coombs and council members Levison and Bagley were willing to adopt adequate comprehensive regulations to protect Longmont residents. Most citizens would agree that an appropriately regulated oil and gas industry can be a win for everyone.

After it became obvious that the City Council majority would approve only a weak, watered-down set of regulations, a group of citizens opted to circulate petitions to amend the charter as proposed in Ballot Question 300. More than 8,000 citizens signed the petitions. All registered voters can now have a direct say in the outcome of the proposed amendment.

This issue deserves your careful attention now for a couple of reasons. First, you need to understand what it says so that you can assess whether or not it reflects what is best for our community. Second, you should examine the merits of the amendment prior to the misinformation tsunami that will soon be launched by the oil and gas industry, along with affiliated special interests, as they try to persuade you to vote no on 300. (Do you remember the hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of propaganda our community received from the cable industry when Longmont voters were considering home-rule control of telecommunication matters?) I encourage all residents to study the issues early so that you can adequately assess the veracity of information provided by both sides. Because the citizens who initiated the proposed amendment will have meager resources, it will no doubt be a very lopsided campaign.

It is easy to anticipate a few attack lines you can expect to hear from the well-funded opposition. These include: The industry will sue; Longmont has a representative form of government, so it is a City Council matter; the COGCC adequately regulates the oil and gas industry; and finally, Colorado has the most stringent oil and gas regulations in the nation.

As the attack ads appear, consider the following questions: Do you want to capitulate just because a multi-billion-dollar industry wants to resist adequate regulation and threatens to sue if it fails to get its way? If a majority of our elected representatives fail to protect our health, safety and the environment, doesn’t the city charter and state constitution provide a means for citizens to act? If the COGCC regulations are adequate, why did the governor on Aug. 15 tell the industry that new regulations are necessary for the industry’s “integrity and trust” and that citizens’ concerns about fracking must be addressed? Finally, do we care how stringent Colorado regulations are if they do not adequately protect public health, safety and the environment? Just last month, the governor admitted the state’s regulations are not adequate.

Voters, the issue belongs to you. Do your homework and cast your ballot.

Hey, Gov! Which mouth are we to believe?

Editor’s Note: Gordon Pedrow served as Longmont City Manger for 18 years prior to his retirement in March of 2012.

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

I have found newspaper coverage about the recent oil and gas association conference in Denver somewhat baffling. On Wednesday, Aug. 15, the governor spoke at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual conference. The Times-Call ran articles covering the speech on both Thursday and Friday with these headlines: “Hickenlooper says Longmont drilling rules must be challenged,” and “Gov. Hickenlooper: Drilling regulations need more work.”

It would appear that the governor was speaking out of both sides of his mouth last week.

Out of one side of his mouth, Gov. Hickenlooper outlined a new set of state initiatives to oversee oil and gas operations to create “integrity and trust” in energy development in our state. According to the article, the focus of the initiatives includes: well-bore integrity, water sampling, fugitive methane emissions and setbacks from densely populated areas. He also remarked that public concern about hydraulic fracturing must be addressed.

After catching his breath, the governor then spoke out of the other side of his mouth. At that point, Gov. Hickenlooper threatened to take the city of Longmont to court to quash its recently adopted comprehensive oil and gas drilling regulations. He stated that the Longmont City Council should accept his word that the state rules governing oil and gas regulations have sufficient flexibility to meet the needs of local communities. These are the same rules that, when speaking out of the other side of his mouth, he said must be revised to bring “integrity and trust to the industry.”

Only a politician would even attempt to sell such convoluted logic to the public. There is no doubt in my mind which entity (state of Colorado or city of Longmont) I want protecting the health and environment in my community. The governor threatening to use the courts to keep the elected Longmont City Council from protecting its residents is unconscionable.

Having a say-so on fracking is our right!

Image courtesy of sxc.hu

The law should stand behind the people, not on top of them.

Thank you, Longmont City Council, for standing your ground against the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission. The regulations that Longmont has put in place regarding oil and gas drilling are weak at best, but so common sense that it’s hard to fathom how the state could oppose them. Wouldn’t everyone hope that we’d monitor groundwater for possible contamination, keep heavily industrialized operations out of residential neighborhoods and have setbacks to protect our streams? Even those who fully support the idea that fracking is safe and necessary can see that in certain settings there should be limits.

The local community should be allowed to have a say in its own health, safety and well-being. And rest assured, there are safety issues when it comes to fracking. Just this week, a blast at an Encana fracking site in Weld County killed one worker and injured three. My heart goes out to the families of those workers. Do we really want to take the chance of something like that happening right next to a school, or playground, or our own backyard?

What’s at issue here is much more than whether or not fracking itself is safe or necessary. It’s an issue about whether or not a local community has the right to protect its own best interests. The COGCC is using its power to bully our small town. And when a bully gets its way, it only makes the bullying worse. If you ask me, the fact that they are actually suing our town over these minimal, common-sense regulations just builds a better case for why we, as a community, should assert our constitutional right to ban the practice of fracking within our city limits by voting for the Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act in November.

The Finley Poison Pill

An abbreviated version of this article appeared in the August 16, 2012, issue of the Boulder Weekly.

Not red or blue, it’s completely clear: all about the MONEY.

I read with both amusement and a bit of consternation the article describing Longmont City Council Member Bonnie Finley’s attempt to inject a poison pill onto the November ballot.  She’s apparently so frightened that the charter amendment, The Longmont Public Health, Safety, and Welfare Act, will pass and be upheld by the courts (if and when it’s challenged) that she’s looking for a method to scare the bejesus out of the Longmont electorate.  What better way to do this than to start talking about taxes, always a “four-letter word” in Longmont.

Longmont is entitled to a fair election on the issue.  Blatant voter manipulation is an abuse of the democratic process.  And that’s precisely what Bonnie Finley is proposing.  Ms. Finley ought to be ashamed of herself.  Furthermore, it’s unethical and likely also illegal for the Longmont City Council to participate in Finley’s manipulation.

The Longmont Public Health, Safety, and Wellness Act would prohibit the extremely hazardous process of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) as well as waste injection wells within the city limits of Longmont.  Fracking lowers property values, damages tax-payer funded roads, endangers our health and safety, and contaminates the air we breathe and water we drink.  But apparently, Bonnie Finley wants to derail a citizen effort to keep Longmont a great place to live so that the oil and gas industry can frack next to our homes, schools and Union Reservoir.

Finley first slipped her proposed Finley Tax into discussion during the “Mayor and Council Comments” section of the July 24 city council meeting.  Her position is predicated on her belief that mineral rights owners would be deprived of the property right to access those minerals.  Ms. Finely grossly, and probably intentionally, misreads the language of the charter amendment.

The Longmont Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act prohibits only the extraction method of hydraulic fracking.  It does not ban oil and gas drilling by other methods.  Owners or lessees of minerals are free to use, and have used, other methods of acquisition besides hydraulic fracking.  They are not being deprived of all economically beneficial uses of their minerals.

Think of the oil and gas industry as a fisherman.  When the Longmont voters pass the hydraulic fracking prohibition, they will be effectively saying, “You can’t fish with dynamite.  You can buy a rod and reel and go fishing and eat all the fish you can catch by that method.  You just can’t blow up the lake because it’s a faster way to get a whole lot more fish.”

In essence, the charter amendment is telling the oil and gas industry and their political supporters like Ms. Finley that they can’t access and sell these minerals using an inherently harmful process to do so.  Make no mistake; fracking is harmful to children, families, the community, and the environment.  The evidence keeps mounting, much to the dismay of the oil and gas industry and those people and agencies that facilitate the industry’s wishes.

Finley is employed by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI), which serves as the Colorado chamber of commerce.  On the CACI board of directors is the Vice President of Encana USA, with substantial interest in drilling and fracking throughout Colorado. In a war there are always “minders.”

The Finley Tax is a blatant attempt to scare voters.   Apparently Council Member Finley wants voters to make a false choice between their family’s health and safety and their wallets.   All Longmont voters should be highly suspicious of Finley’s motives in proposing this tax.   So who is she representing?  I’d say the oil and gas industry – hands down.

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont is made up of people like you, your families, friends and neighbors who believe in Longmont’s quality of life and want to preserve it for ourselves and our children.  Please join us by voting for the Public Health, Safety and Wellness Act when you receive your ballot.

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.

Will humanity be humane to prairie dogs?

The following address was given to the Boulder County Parks and Open Space Advisory Board.

I thank you for providing this time to address the committee about the County’s prairie dog management plan. There are a few more things I believe should be included in this management plan before it goes to the commissioners.

First, (1) the County should develop and implement an online public notification and comment process for all fumigation and trapping/donation proposals prior to implementation on county open space. Having such a process will encourage greater transparency and accountability in the county’s decision-making process concerning the killing of our prairie dogs. As it stands now, county lethal control data is released months or a year after lethal management has occurred. The public has no say in the matter; the citizens who care about our wildlife are shut out of the decision-making process of how our wildlife will be treated and open space money will be spent. Longmont has an online notification/comment process. Why can’t Boulder County do the same?

2. Utilize artificial burrows for relocation. The policy in the draft plan states only existing burrows will be used at a relocation receiving site. This will severely limit the County’s options on where it can relocate prairie dogs.

3. Utilize only non-lethal management controls in Habitat Conservation Areas.

4. Increase the acreage of suitable prairie dog habitat on HCAs through the county’s land acquisition program.

5. Review the management plan every three years not ten.

Before I get to my remaining recommendations, I have a story I would like to share with you. A couple of years ago my husband Chris and I passively relocated prairie dogs at Quail Campus in Longmont. While working the site, I often saw children, who lived nearby, ride their bikes at Quail and along the Lefthand and St. Vrain Greenways. One evening as I was checking burrows, three young boys, aged 9 to 11 years old, stopped by where I was working and asked me why were all the prairie dogs dying. They told me of a place where they saw dead prairie dogs with a skull and crossbones sign posted. I knew they were talking about a fumigation site. I explained to them what happens to prairie dogs when they are poisoned with aluminum phosphide. I told them to stay out of the area because it was very dangerous.

We are sending the wrong message to our children every time we kill prairie dogs to get them out of the way because of development, landscaping, farming or because we just don’t like them. We are teaching our children it’s alright to torture wildlife with poisons because it is a quick way to get rid of them.

I often wonder about those young children and how that particular event, as well as all the other poisonings that occur in Boulder County, may shape their perspective in life. When they grow up, will they be ones who consider prairie dogs as vermin or prairie rats; or will they have respect for our wildlife and one day stand at this podium and tell you to stop killing our prairie dogs and treat them humanely.

Boulder County should lead by example. I truly believe this; that’s why I am recommending (6) inclusion of a management procedure that prioritizes non-lethal management as the first option. Additionally, (7) the county should provide a training course on non-lethal management to agricultural leaseholders. I attended several of the Cropland Policy meetings. At the joint meeting, POSAC had to choose between two words to include in a policy statement, “discourage” or “eliminate.” POSAC chose “discourage.” The policy statement reads: “Priority shall be given to discouraging prairie dogs from occupying cropland.” To me, this means non-lethal management.

And finally, (8) as the last resort, utilize “humane” fumigation instead of poisoning with aluminum phosphide. There are effective humane methods of fumigating prairie dogs. Try pressurized carbon monoxide.

As of June 17th, the County received approximately 300 comments from citizens stating their support for “non-lethal” management controls as the first management option. Prior to that, 1500 comments were received in support of the Rabbit Mountain relocation. Parks and Open Space staff wrote in its relocation application to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife division that the comments “show broad community support for relocation as an alternative to lethal control in Boulder County.”

I ask you: how many times do we have to tell Boulder County we want our prairie dogs to be managed humanely and with non-lethal methods?

Destruction of prairie dogs may seem to be a relatively simple management option. It is the approach that has been used most often by default in Boulder County and this part of the country. In the long run, though, elimination of our prairie dogs will only be detrimental to other wildlife that depend on them and the ecosystem they inhabit. The prairie dog is not a limitless resource; and misperceptions that it is, must change, if it is to survive as a species.

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.