The Bloc is busted!

All-America Longmont is jumping for joy tonight as Baum, Santos, Witt, and Sammoury overwhelmingly win council seats! A return to responsible city government is at hand!

Meanwhile, regressive losers such as T-C online commenters “resident” and “Peggotty” deal with their wretched fate…

And Councilman Sean McCoy reacts to election results, contemplating his remaining two years on council–if he lasts that long…

How do you like the “lunatic fringe” now, Sean?

Finally and most fitting, the message for Progressive ideologues Benker and Fissinger, who looked away from Longmont’s common-sense solutions one too many times…

Party politics at the heart of negative tone

by Aaron Rawlins
Guest Opinion for the Times-Call
October 14, 2009

As I sat down to write this, I realized I have not spoken or written publicly since I gave my concession speech on Nov. 6, 2007. The Times-Call said the Ward 1 election was “a surprise” and council member Hansen was quoted as saying, “I did not think I had a great chance of winning.” I can honestly say I was stunned. I did all the things that people advised would make me successful. However, my opponent used a much more effective strategy. He won by a healthy margin.

Almost two years after that day, a lot of things became clear about the 2007 election. For the first time, political party power was used to pick and elect the candidates in Longmont city government.

Political parties were created to win elections. They have been doing it for more than 200 years in this country, and they brought many of the same tools that made them successful at the national level to our elections. Candidates choosing to band together was a powerful strategy that in the last election showed to be key.

There seem to be some lingering issues with choosing that strategy. When political parties pick candidates, the candidate takes a much smaller subset of the community than someone starting out as a whole. The edges of the party are the hardest support to get, so you get candidates even farther from the center. In the “old guard,” you in fact had people in parties but never driven by them or indebted to them. The bloc members selected and supported by a party during the last election are much farther from the center than what we have ever seen in the past and run an agenda that does not match issues important to running a city.

Another issue is you get candidates that in the past might not have been able to get elected on their own merits. We elected a bloc that has been shown to have weak communication skills or little ability to lead a city in such difficult times. Sadly, most of our current council can’t even run a meeting. Poor communication and incompetence often leads to increased anger. The few centrists left don’t have the votes or pull to move city business forward. The city’s business has quickly become a mess.

The parties and the voters brought partisan politics to our community last election. Sadly, or ironically, I can’t tell which, Richard Juday, who was a lead architect of bringing about this culture, has now called for a solution that can make things worse. Creating yet another partisan group to limit speech is much like the idea of bloodletting in the late 19th century. The cure is most likely much worse then the cause and is the exact opposite of what needs to be done. Why would we put four political partisans in a single group and think this will solve partisanship?

There is no group that can fix the issue of the candidates drifting farther and farther from the political center. This is up to you, the voter, to look at each candidate based on his or her own views and not which party he or she belongs to. If you want to change the political culture, you need to vote for moderates who will work together to solve common problems. We don’t need to vote for blocs. We need to vote for independent thinkers and people who will use their votes on council to push what is right for the people of Longmont, not to whichever party they belong to.

Sadly, the voters cannot fix this issue this year alone. I think we will have to deal with partisan politics for some time. If we vote for free thinkers, the civility will hopefully once again return to what it once was. But voting is a responsibility, and if the voters of Longmont step up and take ownership instead of letting people with agendas take the lead, then the voters can also take responsibility for fixing the issue as well. That is my true hope for ending the current political culture we are now in.

Aaron Rawlins has lived in Longmont for 11 years. In 2007, Rawlins lost his bid for the Ward 1 seat on the Longmont City Council to Brian Hansen.

Times-Call Guest Opinion, printed Oct. 6, 2009: Deeds are Nothing for Council to Toot Horn About

Forgive me for shedding my rose-colored glasses. Somewhere between having children and paying a mortgage I seem to have misplaced them. You can call me what you will. “Old Guard”, pessimistic, a glass-half-empty sort. I’m actually a pragmatic realist who calls it like she sees it. I’m sorry if that isn’t civil to admit.

I’m afraid the recent guest opinion “Focus on what council has accomplished” has some glaring omissions and some gross misrepresentations of fact. First, I’ll address the majority of council’s (aka The Bloc’s) “accomplishments” as touted by the recent piece and then delve into some “accomplishments” that seem to have been forgotten.

  • Heralding a balanced budget as an accomplishment seems hollow as a balanced budget is required by law. If anyone deserves credit it is our City Staff, which has worked tirelessly trying to balance this budget as the bloc goes back and forth, hemming and hawing over making cuts or inventing fees (which is to say, levying taxes, but in such a manner that skirts a public vote). And frankly, furloughing city workers is probably not a selling-point to those workers. It certainly isn’t to me.
  • Taking credit for Circle Capital’s GE deal is either a gross misrepresentation of truth or a wholly naive understanding of business deals. Did the city offer tax breaks to GE that I am unaware of? I don’t think so, but if they did it was after they signed a lease with Circle Capital. I’m wondering what part of that deal they cut, or are they just taking credit for one of the few bright news items lately?
  • Attempting to take credit for an unfinished agreement with RTD on a deal that increasingly looks to be dying (Longmont’s FasTracks) isn’t exactly a fait accompli. And I think the whole town is pretty well-aware of the roadblocks erected by the bloc for Pannatoni’s mall redevelopment the past couple years.
  • The Shop Local Longmont campaign appears to be a dusted off version of a Chamber campaign from the 80’s. The real problem lies with claiming there are incentives involved. There are no incentives, it is an ad campaign that encourages local shopping. Which would be easier for all of us to do if they’d actually aided a mall redevelopment.
  • Dissolution of the Clover Basin Fire District Tax has not been finalized. Plus, it spreads the cost of the district to the whole city versus the homebuyers in the district who benefit from it and agreed to fund it when they chose to purchase there.

I will grant that some of the accomplishments listed have been attained. More parking spaces on Main. Undeniable. Increased recycling? Yep, good! Coffee with the public? Indeed! (Although whether they are actually considering input from attendees is open to interpretation. But hey, they are helping out local coffee shops on Saturdays, so that’s good.)

And now I am afraid it would be irresponsible not to mention some of the other verifiable “accomplishments” that are oft overlooked by their supporters:

  • Set a record for lawsuits accumulated. Three! Count ‘em, three, folks! Including one that is now a FEDERAL First Amendment case! It’s a hat trick, and I defy any other community’s council around here to boast such a feat.
  • An unprecedented raid of our streets and water funds to acquire open space that the open space fund can’t afford (maintenance fees to be worried about later, evidently).
  • $150k committed to study train noise. Here’s a tip: trains are noisy because they have government mandated safety horns. Saving that $150k on the study could have kept those furloughed workers working (a touted savings of $145k) with five grand to spare! Plus, I will not even charge a dime for that information: more savings!
  • Wasted around $14k on a rodent fence at the airport that was an immediate failure in protecting both aircraft and the federal grant money at stake for maintenance. Added bonus accomplishment? The new fence has increased danger to both aircraft and wildlife by acting as perches for large birds of prey!
  • Refused to fund LAVA in the way voters approved, instead deciding 25% of the money LAVA earned would be better spent in their general fund.
  • Ok’d some chickens in backyards.
  • Studied some traffic.

I respectfully submit the above clarifications to the citizens of Longmont to decide for themselves what the majority of council has accomplished.

Appointing pawns and puppets

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the liberal Bloc of Four on Longmont City Council has made a number of pure agenda-driven city board appointments since last December, all by four yea votes from the Bloc contrasted to three dissenting votes from the other council members. One of these appointees was a pesty animal rights activist known as Prairie Dog Woman. Apparently these partisan shenanigans from progressive-controlled city councils are nothing new to Boulder County, as described in the commentary below by former Boulder mayor Bob Greenlee.
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From the Boulder Daily Camera:

Greenlee: Their way or the highway
Sunday, April 5, 2009

Boulder’s City Council is consumed with an overwhelming desire to exercise ultimate control over nearly everything. When it comes to selecting citizens to serve on its many boards and commissions there’s apparently little room for dissent. Council recently rejected all six candidates for an open seat on the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment with councilmember Macon Cowles suggesting that all the applicants had direct ties to the development community and might “unbalance” the board. Such unbalanced hyperbole came despite the fact that the city’s own Web site says applicants “must be qualified by experience and training to act upon matters relating to building constructions.”

The only plausible explanation for rejecting all six of the entirely qualified applicants was a fear that at least one vote might be different from council’s preferred outcomes. It’s hard to maintain balance if just one person might disagree with the council’s will. Such obvious bias shows how deeply flawed the whole advisory board scheme has become. Instead of representing a variety of citizen input on matters of public policy the current council only seems interested in appointing pawns and puppets.

The six rejected applicants are appropriately upset over having been given the heave-ho. Any one of them would have provided a welcomed balance to the zoning board and private property owners. Each of the candidates had some modest background or technical expertise in dealing with Boulder’s perverse, fickle, and ever-changing zoning regulations. The rejected candidates were probably the most qualified group of citizens to apply for a spot on the board in recent years. Obviously the council wasn’t looking for people who might have provided some guidance in interpreting or fine-tuning the complexities of regulations and real world situations. Members of council who rejected the applicants believed that at least some or all them had hidden agendas and might actually challenge council’s preferred outcomes. The real agenda was council’s desire not to be challenged.

Your current City Council continuously engages in an endless display of posturing. This coming Tuesday, it will likely increasing the tax money it will appropriate in order to fund its Climate Action Plan. It will pretend to hear from the public who may or may not welcome a tax increase and then it will vote to approve the hike it has already concluded is absolutely necessary in order to achieve an elusive Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas objective that Boulder voters approved two years ago. All this despite the fact that the effort is largely symbolic if not entirely unnecessary given that whatever happens in Boulder will have no meaningful impact in reversing our planet’s ever-changing climate. It will, however, make a number of citizens feel good and there’s nothing more important than that.

It’s interesting to note that there are at least a few Boulder citizens were willing to challenge the wisdom of spending even more money on the CAP. One citizen who supports a tax hike did wonder about the viability of the program questioning whether the funds collected so far have done any good. Remarkably a spokesperson for PLAN-Boulder County asked whether or not there was any direct relationship between simply spending more money rather than demonstrating any actual results. Progressives love to equate spending someone else’s money for things they covet without being too concerned over whether or not anything of actual value is achieved.

The current worldwide recession has done more to curtail any excess carbon concerns than anything Boulder could conceive of. Thousands of China’s polluting factories have been shuttered and most of India’s steel mills have closed. But having more carbon action money means being able to exercise greater control. Now that’s something City Council apparently can’t live without.

Bob Greenlee was a member of Boulder’s City Council for 16 years and served his last 2 years as mayor. Write him at: robertdgreenlee@aol.com