Tag Archive for Sarah Levison

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.

Longmont, you’re fracked. OK by Council

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

Fracked behind closed doors

Fracked behind closed doors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Santos storms out of council meeting

Gabe Santos, Longmont City Council 2012

Bullying his fellow council members isn't working.

Council Member Gabe Santos stormed out of the February 21 council meeting when things didn’t go his way.  I could say “like a bully in a china shop,” but council is far from that delicate status, though certainly the moniker of bully is apropos Santos.  After all, someone had to fill ex-Mayor Bryan Baum’s shoes.  Longmont can’t have a city council absent at least one right-wing bully.

So what got his knickers is such a tight twist.  Senate Bill 12-015, the ASSET bill, which provides for standard-rate tuition for undocumented foreign students who have spent at least three years in a Colorado high school and have applied for admission within one year of graduation or completing the GED.  In addition to the in-state tuition, the student would be required to pay the opportunity fund stipend that is offered to in-state students. How dare the city help it’s young people pull themselves up by their bootstraps!

In order for the Longmont City Council to vote on endorsing SB-015 during a study session, it was necessary to suspend Council’s Rule of Procedure 17.5. Mayor Dennis Coombs made the motion, seconded by Sarah Levison, and that prompted Santos to go ballistic.

He put his ever-so-oppressive foot down and said, “I’m not going to vote for this. If we’re going to bring up potentially contentious items before council at the state or federal level, then I got a whole slew that we can bring up.”  He ranted and raved about precedent, about future votes on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico or saving the trees in Afghanistan.

In response, Mayor Coombs explained that the bill is largely bi-partisan and that Longmont has a number of Hispanic students.  That triggered even more raving by Santos who accused the mayor of making it a race issue.  Mr. Santos, do you have a problem with being Latino/Hispanic?  Or do you have to prove to the right-wing racists in the community that you’re one of the acceptable ones?  If you’re paying attention you will know that there are many racists in Longmont who consistently spew their racist venom in comments to Times-Call articles whenever the opportunity presents itself, or even in Letters to the Editor.

Santos didn’t get any help from Council Member Brian Bagley either.  Bagley pointed out that council gives direction to staff about which state bills to support or oppose and once or twice a month offers proclamations on issues that are often beyond the scope of the city’s direct business.

The hilarious portion of Santos tirade was his statement about the Council being a non-partisan board.  Technically, he’s correct.  But most Longmont voters know what party their council members belong to.  And if they don’t know it by a candidate’s admission, history or information supplied by their friends and family, they know it by the platforms the candidate adopts and by who are the visible endorsers.  So once more, of the countless upon countless times, Council Member Santos is – how shall I say this politely – DISINGENUOUS.

Disingenuous?  Aw, let’s forget that one.  Council member Santos repeatedly (let me say that again – repeatedly) couches his arguments fer or agin a matter with supposedly acceptable or righteous reasons.  He does this to avoid a record that could cause damage downstream in his political pursuits. Hell, even Tom DeLay wasn’t slick enough for that.  But then he was a Republican partisan with a major position in the Republican-led House of Representatives at the time.  While in the employ of Representatives Tom DeLay and Roy Blunt, I’m sure Santos had ample opportunity to learn how to be slicker than the supposed “Slick Willie,” whom they tried so desperately to throw out of office. They’re using other tactics this time around with Obama, but that’s subject for a different article.

A vote was taken on the motion to suspend Procedure 17.5 and the result was 6-1;  Santos was the LONE dissenter.  Following that Mayor Coombs moved and it was seconded that the Council instruct Sandi Seader, the city’s lobbyist, to convey the City of Longmont’s endorsement of SB-015 to the Colorado Senate and House.  Again, the vote was 6-1 with Santos as the LONE dissenter.  While Santos may have strengthened his right-wing, anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic credentials with Longmont voters when he tries to climb the ladder out of Longmont into state office, he’s left one helluva stench elsewhere.

Immediately following both votes and before the routine comments from council members, the city manager and city attorney, Santos stormed from the council chambers.  He didn’t get his way.  He didn’t have the support of other council members whom he “whips” (bullies) into shape lest they stray from the fold.  He was left hanging out to dry all by his LONEsome.

What is council member Santos going to do next week for a second act?  We’ll just have to stay tuned, won’t we?

Coombs/Levison support drilling moratorium

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fracking — coming to a location near you

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

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

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

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

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

Frack You Longmont

Frack near Longmont? It's no fairy tale.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free Range Longmont Endorses: Sarah Levison for Council at-large

Sarah Levison speaks to community at Longmont Chamber of Commerce/Times-Call Candidate Forum

The choice for this council seat is without dispute Sarah Levison.  Levison is the most well-informed candidate on the Longmont City Council on all issues that are brought before the council.  She doesn’t simply rely on information provided by city staff.  She reaches out to experts to gain their insights and knowledge and uses this information to shape the best courses of action for the city of Longmont.  Her network of resources is both broad and deep.

Levison devotes considerable time to Longmont boards and commissions as well as the Colorado Municipal Leagues (CML) and the National League of Cities (NLC).  She serves on the CML policy committee and the NLC steering committee for finance, administration and intergovernmental relations as well as the Youth, Education and Family Council and the panel for Democratic Governance

As a 14 year resident of Longmont, Levison has long been active in the community. She served on Longmont City’s Economic Vitality Taskforce and is a former neighborhood group leader for the Historic Eastside Neighborhood Association.

Levison has been a strong and tireless supporter of fair and open campaign practices against those on Longmont’s current council who sought to weaken Longmont’s campaign transparency regulations.  She also strongly resisted the destruction of Longmont’s Affordable Housing Program that resulted from the elimination of the 10% new home set-aside that provided geographic diversity and a funding source for other aspects of the Affordable Housing Program.

A vote for Sarah Levison is a vote for the betterment of Longmont.

Don’t defile Longmont’s Open Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This land is our land.

Expect outside influence with negative mailers in 2011 election

They did it before, they'll do it again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Levison announces re-election bid

Sarah LevisonSarah Levison has announced that she is seeking election to the city council at large seat. She has served on the Longmont City Council since 2007.

Levison will focus on three issues: Jobs, Transportation and Community Development.

“Longmont is a community with all the components in place to propel our local economy forward to create jobs, new investments by the private sector and new transportation choices. Now is the time to work harder and smarter to highlight our community’s assets to capitalize on every opportunity to attract and retain jobs.”

“Transportation choices and good infrastructure will be a key to furthering job growth in Longmont. I support keeping our local streets, bike lanes, side walks and trails in top notch condition. I have worked consistently to hold RTD accountable to the needs of our city for better regional and local bus service and to invest in local infrastructure. Finally, it appears that RTD is listening, having dedicated $17 million dollars to begin the work on the Station area for Fastracks. I have dedicated my time and energy to working with the Station Area Master Plan (STAMP) group to insure that Longmont gets what will best serve our community in design and investment.”

“Our community is one of the best in the Front Range and the country. This is a city that respects and values all its residents. My business card says, ‘Let’s work together toward a better Longmont.’ I remind myself everyday of the importance of a positive attitude to work with every group and every person in the city.”

As a 14 year resident of Longmont, Levison has long been active in the community in many roles. She served on Longmont City’s Economic Vitality Taskforce and the Longmont Museum Board. Sarah is a former neighborhood group leader for the Historic Eastside Neighborhood Association. Sarah has volunteered at Central Elementary and Heritage Middle Schools. She was the founder and director of the “Art in Collyer Park” program.

Longmont ballot issue disclosure at risk

Eugene Mei, Longmont City Attorney, insists that a recent decision by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Sampson v Buescher makes it necessary to eliminate ballot issue reporting. His reading of the ruling more than suggests that the man is afraid. Is he afraid of lawsuits? Or is he afraid of a council majority who was thrilled at the Citizens United ruling that legalized corporate personhood, a council that would just as soon remove all campaign reporting, but likely worries at least a little about political backlash. Remember – the City Attorney serves at the will of the City Council.

Oversimplified, the ruling held that the application of the requirements to a committee that raised less than $1000 violated its members’ right to freedom of association.

But the ruling was not as cut and dried as Mei persists in asserting.

Council Member Sarah Levison provided a thoughtful presentation covering this case, the Citizens United case and the Doe v Reed ruling that allows for more breadth that the absolutist interpretation offered by our City Attorney.

Levison discussed the ruling with a number of authoritative organizations and entities. However, off camera, Eugene Mei boldly asserted, “I don’t care about people’s credentials. I’m not impressed.”

The ruling in Sampson v Buescher held that disclosure requirements were allowed when an organizations’ freedom of association was not significantly attenuated or when the contributions and expenditures are slight. [emphasis added] The court ruled that there was virtually “no proper governmental interest in imposing disclosure requirements on a ballot-initiative committees that raise so little money.” [emphasis added]

The case adjudicated covered monetary and in-kind contributions in the amount of $782.02 made by five people. And it was applied under the state regulations covering statutory towns, not home rule towns like the City of Longmont. Longmont’s issue committee regulations clearly do not require an attorney or rocket scientist to comprehend.

The subject case involved an annexation of a subdivision in unincorporated Douglas County into the Town of Parker. There were those who wanted it and those who didn’t. Those who wanted the annexation brought suit against the No-Annexation five for failure to register and comply with state regulations.

Their suit was as much about harassing those opposed to the annexation as it was about the law. However, the 10th Circuit failed to see or acknowledge the underlying motivation. The pro-annexation leaders followed their complaint with a subpoena with nine requests. As an example, one of the requests was for “All communications amongst [Plaintiffs] or anyone else concerning the issue of annexation of Parker North into the Town of Parker, Colorado. A lower court refused to quash the subpoena but did apply certain minimal limitations.

Further strong arming was evident by the pro-annexation original plaintiffs when they proposed a “non-negotiable offer of settlement.” The settlement required that the anti-annexation defendants “admit all charges against them and would either abandon their organized opposition to the annexation (including removing all signs and campaign material) or follow all laws governing issue committees.” The settlement offer allowed for only four days to respond.

Apparently having had enough the anti-annexation five filed their own suit alleging first amendment violations of free speech and free association.

The 10th Circuit discussed the Supreme Court’s recognition of “three proper justifications for reporting and disclosing campaign finances.” The third is extremely relevant to ballot issues and speaks to “informational interest.” The Court recognized that there was need to “analyze the public interest in knowing who is spending and receiving money to support or oppose a ballot issue.”

The 10th Circuit acknowledged that “the U.S. Supreme Court has sent a mixed message on ballot issues.” It further acknowledged that “the Court has never rejected a First Amendment challenge to a financial-disclosure requirement in the ballot-issue context,” although it has “spoken favorably” on three occasions. The 10th circuit court also acknowledged that “not all burdens on freedom of association are unconstitutional.”

The 10th Circuit’s ruling speaks out of both sides of its mouth. On the one hand it states, “It is not obvious that there is … a public [information] interest.” Yet it cites the Supreme Court ruling in the Massachusetts Bellotti case that stated that the people “may consider, in making their judgment, the source and credibility of the advocate.” That case appended a footnote saying that “[i]dentification of the source of advertising may be required as a means of disclosure, so that people will be able to evaluate the arguments to which they are being subjected.” In that case, the Court wrote, “The integrity of the political system will be adequately protected if contributors are identified in a public filing revealing the amounts contributed; if it is thought wise, legislation can outlaw anonymous contributions.”

In the Colorado Buckley case, the “Court, without distinguishing between candidate and ballot-issue campaigns, wrote…that disclosure provides the electorate with information as to where political campaign money comes from and how it is spent, thereby aiding electors in evaluating those who seek their vote.” It went on to state that “disclosure requirements” expose “large contributions and expenditures to the light of publicity.” In Buckley, the Court affirmed that “the State legitimately requires sponsors of ballot initiatives to disclose who pays…and how much.”

After all the back and forth in the ruling of the 10th Circuit in Sampson v Buescher, the court comes back to “when contributions and expenditures are slight.” And it comes back to the requirements of the Colorado Statute, a statute that applies to statutory towns and home-rule towns in the absence of town ordinance.

In conclusion the 10th Circuit states: “Here, the financial burden of state regulation on Plaintiffs’ freedom of association approaches or exceeds the value of their financial contributions to their political effort; and the governmental interest in imposing those regulations is minimal, if not nonexistent, in light of the small size of the contributions. We therefore hold that it was unconstitutional to impose that burden on Plaintiffs.” [emphasis added]

And lastly the court says, “We do not attempt to draw a bright line below which a ballot-issue committee cannot be required to report contributions and expenditures….We say only that Plaintiff’s contributions and expenditures are well below the line.