Tag Archive for Mayor Bryan Baum

Mayor Baum’s hostile ideology

As published in the Longmont Times-Call on August 11, 2011:

Mayor Bryan Baum is a kidney cancer survivor. I am a lung cancer survivor. We have cancer in common. We also are passionate about healthcare. But we differ sharply on how and who should insure that care. Baum’s comments at the August 2nd council meeting suggested that his insurer was a PPO. He stressed the immediacy of his treatments and advocated for this type of program. I agree with him that insurance company “gatekeepers” should not be deciding when, where, who or how treatment is delivered. It costs lives. And it becomes very personal when that life is yours. I also understand why many choose HMOs. Often they are cheaper, although not always. Restrictive healthcare is preferable to no healthcare.

However, it was disturbing to hear Mayor Baum and his acolyte at Public Invited to be Heard “advocate” for consumerism in healthcare. Stunningly, Baum suggested that higher deductibles and larger co-pays would motivate people, and City of Longmont employees in particular, to be more “responsible” users of healthcare. Healthcare is not furniture or clothing and is not driven by the same “market” forces. Maximizing profit has no place in healthcare delivery. It inevitably leads to healthcare delay, and even worse healthcare denial.

Mayor Baum ‘s thinking – or more precisely, his political ideology – is one of the primary reasons why he should not be re-elected as Longmont’s mayor. Repeatedly his ideology has driven his votes. It’s a religion to him. It’s faith-based. Not fact-based. The Tea Party Republican ideology that drives him is fundamentally hostile toward human needs and human rights. Baum talks a good game when it comes to serving people. And he may mean it. However, his actions belie his rhetoric. And as all of us were taught, correctly, as children, actions speak much louder than words.

Longmont’s current council majority are radicals

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

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

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

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

Decoding Mayor Baum

He's sending signals and they're easy to decode

Have you looked in your utility bill? Did you read Cityline? It would appear that Mayor Baum believes the Republican takeover of the Colorado and the U.S. House of Representatives has given him some sort of conservative “mandate” – or, at least, an excuse to justify radical changes in Longmont’s policies. Watch your step, Mr. Mayor, watch your step.

We know that the national Republicans have a policy to “starve the beast.” That’s the radical conservative Club for Growth code meaning to bankrupt the treasury so that all social programs can either be eliminated or privatized. It’s been the driving policy for at least 30 years. That’s what thy mean when they talk about “smaller government.” Since Longmont must balance its budget by law, our elected officials don’t have the same tools at their disposal. But they can radically change priorities.

Baum speaks of “hard infrastructure choices.” We know that the issue of an additional tax is planned to finish FasTracks. What we don’t know is whether it will be on the 2011 or 2012 ballot and what fraction of a percent it will be. But Longmont officials only have input and will not unilaterally decide the issue. We know that a Master Plan is in the offing for the former Flour Mill area that will eventually be the station for the Longmont Northwest Corridor connection, and a “bus station” in the interim.

But what other “hard infrastructure choices” is he thinking about? Dollars to donuts he has realtors and developers whispering in his ear requesting drastic changes to Longmont’s affordable housing program. As one who rarely misses a city council meeting, I’ve seen the signs – particularly from the mayor and Councilmember Katie Witt. The three new members have been taking a page out of the Gabe Santos/Tom DeLay playbook. How does that work, you say? It means you find a reason for your decision/vote that “everybody” can buy into and that conceals your true intent. Santos is a master at this. Gives a whole new perspective on “transparency,” doesn’t it?

Longmont government exists to benefit the people, the commonweal as it were. I’ll grant you that realtors and developers are part of the community, but they are a limited and small part. Give them a seat at the table, but not the entire table.

And it looks like the mayor is gearing up for some fighting. Out of the blue he cautions about “disagreeing without being disagreeable.” That’s lingo that Longmont’s ideologically conservative majority is employing to hamstring dissent – whether from other council members or from the community. Over the last year, the only elected officials “making a scene” publicly have been The Baum Squad, all the while chastising others to play nice.

So, Mayor Baum, if you want activity to be “agreeable,” be sure you don’t “overreach” and presume that you are entitled to follow in the God-awful footsteps of what the Republicans are planning in Washington, D.C. It won’t fly. And if you try to make it fly, it will crash and burn.

Longmont power brokers launch perpetual electioneering

Same hammer, different beat(down)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Couldn’t have said it better

Not too long ago a commentator wrote a psychological analysis of one of the nation’s most disturbed famous names. Add enormous of amounts of money to our “culture of celebrity” and you get an (almost) equal-opportunity bigot who has twisted Catholicism and Christianity beyond recognition. The writer is David Brooks and the subject is Mel Gibson.

David Brooks is not a writer with whom I would normally agree. After all, he writes for that bastion of national lunacy The Washington Times and spreads the gospel according to Banksters on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages. But every once in awhile he shows some good judgment, in this case for the New York Times.

As I read the first few paragraphs of his Gibson article, I could have sworn that he’d spent some time here in Longmont observing our city’s mayor and his blogger-in-chief who has a fascination with lightning.

Read for yourself the first few paragraphs below and I have no doubt that you will conclude that this nail was hit squarely on the head.

Let us enter, you and I, into the moral universe of the modern narcissist.

The narcissistic person is marked by a grandiose self-image, a constant need for admiration, and a general lack of empathy for others. He is the keeper of a sacred flame, which is the flame he holds to celebrate himself.

There used to be theories that deep down narcissists feel unworthy, but recent research doesn’t support this. Instead, it seems, the narcissist’s self-directed passion is deep and sincere.

His self-love is his most precious possession. It is the holy center of all that is sacred and right. He is hypersensitive about anybody who might splatter or disregard his greatness. If someone treats him slightingly, he perceives that as a deliberate and heinous attack. If someone threatens his reputation, he regards this as an act of blasphemy. He feels justified in punishing the attacker for this moral outrage.

And because he plays by different rules, and because so much is at stake, he can be uninhibited in response. Everyone gets angry when they feel their self-worth is threatened, but for the narcissist, revenge is a holy cause and a moral obligation, demanding overwhelming force.

Mayor Baum, you are a liar.

Longmont Mayor Bryan Baum, lying to the public

Factually challenged or just morally bankrupt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what you said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baum: Voters’ (Buyers’?) Remorse

Not what the public expected

No one's singing along

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did Money Buy Longmont Council Elections? You Decide.

Hard Cash, Hard Facts from the last municipal election…

The November 2009 Longmont City Council elections will go down in the history books as the most unscrupulous campaign in recent memory.  (See Boulder Weekly, 4/29/10 “Best Example of Dirty Politics”.)

Compare those who spent the most and who had the most spent on their behalf with those who won the office, and the connection between money and politics becomes vividly apparent.

Candidates Who Lost
Cash In-Kind
Bill Van Dusen City Council-At-Large $3,051 $605
Kaye Fissinger City Council-At-Large $4,242 $503
Karen Benker City Council Ward 2 $7,533 $474
Roger Lange Mayor $4,838
Independent Expenditure from Deb Gardner $208

Candidates Who Won
Cash In-Kind
Gabe Santos City Council-At-Large $14,620 $605
Alex Sammoury City Council-At-Large $13,718 $503
Katie Witt City Council Ward 2 $16,557 $474
Bryan Baum Mayor $4,246 $9,137

Political Action Committees (PAC) that supported the “winners”
Longmont Leadership
(Western Tradition Partnership)
$12,800
Citizens to Elect the Baum $775
Longmont Citizens for a Brighter Future
(Coloradans for Economic Growth)
$6,700
Longmont Watch $792

Those who won the election and their supporters spent $82,519

Those that lost the election spent $21,454

~ 4 : 1

Almost all of the money spent by the above-identified PACs on the winning candidates was funneled to them through tax-exempt, non-profit 501c4 organizations who can, and do, keep the names of their contributors secret.

It wasn’t the first time that huge amounts were contributed to the winning candidate. The Longmont Realtor PAC gave Councilmember Santos $5,000 for the special election in January 2008.

Whether it’s called quid pro quo or “pay to play,” something very interesting happened when the well-funded, and secretly-funded, candidates claimed their majority. The bank account of the City of Longmont was opened wide. Three lawsuits brought with the intent of providing a false platform for the new majority candidates were settled:

Political money/muscle
Western Tradition Partnership, Longmont Leadership Committee, Longmont Area Realtors Association, et al $68,500
Times-Call, Dean Lehman $13,500
LifeBridge Church aka Town of Firestone $100,000
$182,000

$182,000 – Not a bad return on investment

Who won the November 2009 election?

Certainly not Longmont’s citizens.