GUEST EDITORIAL: Mark Alexander on Transparency

Transparency preferred, but not required. That ought to be the job posting for our council member openings. It would seem that the definition of transparency has been obscured in the last election cycle. The growing dependence on executive sessions is more than disheartening. It is shameful. Have our elected council members forgotten they are servants to a city? Can you imagine owning a business with a dozen employees who meet to discuss how they will work for you but not allow you to have knowledge of it? Even unions have to divulge on the table when negotiations are happening. Not so for our Council.

Longmont, take note that you are on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars you did not authorize to be spent. You were not asked if you wanted an appeal after losing this frivolous lawsuit. We have no idea if 4 or 7 members pressed forward for the appeal of the Union annexation loss. The executive session shields that information from the citizen, the voter, and the employers of this council.

To Gabe Santos, At-Large Council Member and candidate, I say THANK YOU for motioning to end this waste of money and resources. Rise up Longmont! Be heard by this Council lest they assume your silence is approval for their will imposed upon you.

To the sitting Council members, what is kept in darkness will be brought to the light. Are you so frightened to have your discussions, intentions, and agendas exposed? As your employer you are all on notice, embrace transparency, drop the lawsuit, or be fired beginning this November.

Citizens speak out over Firestone legal actions

At the August 4, 2009 Longmont City Council meeting, several speakers came to the podium during Public Invited To Be Heard to voice their opinion about the ongoing legal battle with the Town of Firestone. It was something to behold, and most of these people should be proud of themselves. A couple of others should hang their head in shame, along with some councilmembers.

What was impressive was the diverse group of speakers and how they put across their feelings on the subject. I didn’t know or have ever seen a good lot of them, which made it even better. I heard in the lobby that it was about 10-3 against the lawsuits/appeals and secret meetings this council has been holding. The couple who actually spoke in favor of throwing more of our tax money down the rat hole and to hell with relations with our neighboring city were no big surprise, but were vastly outnumbered and outmatched by some of the other speakers.

My wife and I spoke, but there were 3 others in particular who really dealt the best blows, and totally caught me by surprise. One didn’t hold back, stating odds of Longmont actually winning an appeal (not good), and actually uttering “bloc of 4” and then directed his ire towards Sean McCoy when he started grinning and rocking back and forth in his chair, obviously ticked off. One was a realtor who said “really it’s a bloc of 5” and let them have it. And one was a young guy who chastised councilmembers for their lack of order, specifically (but not by name) Sarah Levison for speaking over Gabe Santos. Tough acts to follow.

The overwhelming message being sent was support for Gabe Santos’ motion to end the lawsuit and appeals against Firestone, and to end all the secret Executive Sessions and release the tapes of those meetings. They were reminded of their campaign promise of open, transparent government, to which I added “but like other politicians from the top down, that promise apparently had an expiration date.”

What will council do with this? I’d guess nothing, completely ignore it, it doesn’t fit the agenda of a majority on council, so it will go nowhere. Sorry speakers, better luck next time.

I reminded council this will be a campaign issue this year and in 2 years when Levison, McCoy, and Hansen are up for re-election. We already know how one candidate feels about this as At-Large candidate Kaye Fissinger is ecstatic that the lawsuits will continue. How about you other candidates, including Karen Benker? We obviously know how Gabe Santos feels, as well as Mary Blue (she seconded the motion, but is not running for re-election), and Mayor Lange (he killed the motion).

I have a challenge for every council candidate: you submit to me in the comments section where you stand on this issue (and stay on topic, don’t ramble or make a speech) and I’ll publish it. If not here, make your voice heard on this somewhere, don’t even try to duck this important issue. I’ll make sure to point it out if you do.

Death and taxes in Longmont

You’ve worked your whole life, you die, your family tries to sell off some stuff for whatever reason (pay off debts, pay for your funeral, etc) and the taxman, or taxwoman in this case (Longmont City Councilmember Sarah Levison) follows you to and beyond the grave to collect.

Apparently someone in town was holding an “estate sale” and Ms. Levison wants the city to get its fair share of sales tax revenue from this sale. She “had an occasion to stop by” this sale, said she didn’t buy any of the $500+ items, and has now turned snitch on the people holding it. I’m sure it will greatly help in the grieving process.

She said she “noticed they were not collecting taxes for the City of Longmont”. She’s either clairvoyant or actually asked them, but she didn’t elude to that in her comments. How does she know they weren’t collecting sales tax for Longmont or the State of Colorado? That’s right, she doesn’t. Don’t you love those kind of people who show up at places (usually uninvited as anyone who knows them would just assume not invite them to anything) and start throwing their weight and opinion around? In this case a city councilmember making assumptions (correct or not) about a possibly criminal activity, in her opinion.

She didn’t say she didn’t buy anything. So if she did, was she a known accessory to tax evasion? We’ll leave that alone, for now…
Here’s the video

Once again, with some people their instincts and principles just come natural in social settings – in this case a nosey, overtaxing nanny-state type. It’s not enough that they want to bring back the “Death Tax” (“Estate tax” is just too nice) and tax you your whole life and into the afterlife spreading their misery to those you leave behind. But tax them again when they try to sell your stuff, probably just to keep the house you lived in and paid a mortgage on for years.

But that’s not all! She also wants to find out if maybe the state could go after these people, she’d “hate to think that we might have lost several hundred dollars worth of tax income that day“. She ended with “we need every dime we can get these days“. First off, “we” being the government, is supposed to be us, the people. It’s amazing how quickly elected officials forget that and find as many ways as possible to siphon off money from citizens.

Second, if this city didn’t squander money away so frivolously in the last 18 months (about the same time as this weak majority has been on council – no, precisely the time this weak majority has been in charge) this wouldn’t be so much of an issue. It was Ms. Levison in particular who led the charge with last minute adjustments to the recent budget, things dreamed up on the fly with no public notice.

You must know where this is leading, get ready for….

GARAGE SALES TAX.

…and here’s your future garage sale monitor and elected busybody, Sarah Levison, At-Large Longmont City Councilmember.

Longmont’s Mall theater solution: Netflix!


Contrary to what some, or even many, people may think, I don’t go out of my way to try to make some members of Longmont City Council look bad. They usually do it all by themselves. Problem is, most people in this city have no idea what kinds of things come out of their mouths, and if they did they would occasionally be appalled – or at least entertained.

On Saturday May 2nd, three councilmembers (Karen Benker, Sarah Levison, and Brian Hansen) hosted a town meeting along with members of city staff. The hottest topic that took up most of the meeting was the Twin Peaks Mall. Whenever the mall is a topic in the Times-Call, the comments from citizens are many, long, and heated. For the most part, people want something done with this failing piece of property. And yesterday.

Who needs theaters when you have Netflix?
Many of the comments by the above councilmembers were quite revealing. The most ridiculous has to go to Mr. Hansen. Most people in the city seem to be in favor of a new theater, the old one has lousy seating, along with sub-par picture and sound quality. It’s ugly and people go elsewhere, plain and simple. When asked about this theater situation, Mr. Hansen said that no one is going to theaters anymore, and a viable alternative is to stay at home and rent from Netflix.

Now, I love Netflix, use it constantly, both streaming and by mail. But how many of you relish the idea of sitting around the glow of your TV (and the warmth of your mercury-laden CFL bulbs) and staying home to watch movies? Keep in mind Netflix doesn’t have movies when they first come out, so you have to wait a bit for that new picture you want to see. Mr. Hansen also used the excuse of getting the flu or cold in theaters, which is possible anywhere you have actual interaction with live human beings. Who needs that, right?

It’s tough being green
Then the point of driving to the theater came up and how he can just walk down to the mailbox and drop off his DVD. This is not very eco-friendly when you take into account everything involved with multiple vehicles in the US Postal system getting that DVD to and from your mailbox. It’s a much smaller carbon footprint to drive a mile, or even several miles, to a theater. Or walk, or ride your bike, or take a bus – just about anything.

Then there’s the “benefit to the city” issue: What sales/use tax does Netflix bring to the City of Longmont? I’d guess ZERO. And Mr. Hansen is endorsing a service that competes directly with companies around town that rent or sell DVD’s who actually do bring revenues into the city.

His excuse was the improvements in flat panels and home theaters, and that the sound they offer is about as good as you’re going to get at a theater. How many of you would agree with that? It may be better than what Twin Peaks Mall theater has NOW, but not in a new stadium seating, Dolby Digital theater, which is about the bare minimum now in new theaters surrounding, but not in, Longmont.

How do you really feel?
But it wasn’t just the theater with Mr. Hansen. He said more than once he isn’t against the mall redevelopment, yet he has consistently spoken and voted against it. There is a contingent here in Longmont, and they always side with Mr. Hansen and the “Benker-wing” of city council, who have made it clear it’s just fine with them if the land where the mall now sits became one big Open Space with prairie dogs as far as the eye can see. It’s my opinion that Mr. Hansen’s above comments reveal his true feelings about the mall: let it fail, let it be bulldozed, let it be “returned to its natural state” (my term).

What was really infuriating was his comments that now is not the time to do this with the economy in the shape that it’s in, and that the city was in a “much better position to do something” prior to the downturn. I’ve been writing about this situation for well over a year, (see for yourself at this link) and the stalling game this council has played with the mall. There have been public meetings (which Mr. Hansen never attended), studies, a “charrette” – you name it, it’s been done ad nuaseam with this mall. And long before these “hard economic times”.

The most accurate thing he said was “they (Panattoni) are in the mall business, and I’m not. They’re probably more experts than we are.” You wouldn’t know that watching City Council meetings on this subject for the last year and a half. Karen Benker noted that “people are voting with their feet”, which is true, right into other malls and theaters in Boulder, Erie, and Loveland.

Council’s Mall hostility
Sarah Levisons continued apparent hostility towards Panattoni continued with her comments about “strip mall stuff like Harvest Junction”, and how inexperienced the company is. She also kept saying they could build any time they want – although there is the little issue of getting it through Planning and Zoning and a vote of council – which is a consistent NO vote from Ms. Levison.

Like I said prior, drive by Harvest Junction, is that (and the now planned hotel) the small, meaningless potatoes that some on this council pretend it to be? The question was asked, and Ms. Benker didn’t quite get it, so I’ll rephrase it: The pro-mall comments at this meeting notwithstanding, about a year ago you were more positive on the mall situation, something changed and as your support went south, the project stalled. Without using the excuse of the economy (your support fell prior to that), why did your support wane? Was it a shifting interest and prioritization towards Downtown? What has Panattoni done wrong, or differently, to warrant this negative treatment?

These things have consequences
Whatever the reason, all of the citizens of Longmont suffer over this council’s inaction, stalling, and stonewalling of this issue. If nothing happens with Twin Peaks Mall before November, regardless of your newfound and returned support, the stalling by you and the consistent non-support by your fellow councilmembers (Levison, Hansen, and McCoy) will be a major election issue. Count on it.

(Additional resources for this report provided by the Longmont Examiner)

Illegal immigrant tuition and fumbling councilmembers


Did ya catch the Feb 24th Longmont City Council meeting? Some of the more interesting and entertaining parts you might not read about in the local paper. Somebody out there is making YouTube videos (nope, it’s not me) of some of the stranger occurrences, which you are free to check out some of them at my YouTube Channel.

Check this one out, I saw some comments on the Times-Call website about this, now I know what they were talking about…

There was more, like several times asking to clarify what a YES or NO vote meant. Now, I’ve been known to join in the post-council meeting get-togethers at O’shays for a drink or two (I don’t think I’ve paid for one of my own yet though). But there was something else Councilmember Sean McCoy referred to at this meeting that got my attention:
Senate Bill 170, which you can read in its entirety at this link.

The first sentence sends off alarms for me: “Requires that a person, regardless of immigration status, who attends a Colorado high school for at least 3 years and enrolls in a Colorado institute of higher education within 5 years after either graduating from a Colorado high school or earning a general education diploma in Colorado shall be charged the same tuition rate and shall be eligible for tuition assistance under the same criteria as a person who establishes domicile in Colorado.”

So not only is that paragraph admitting that you are indeed paying (through mill levies, bond issues, property tax, etc) for the high school education of someone here illegally, you should also kick in to make their college education financially on par with a resident of the state! What a bunch of suckers.

I don’t care who endorsed it, who backs it, or what political party they’re from. I’ve got a problem with “regardless of immigration status” for what should be obvious reasons. I’m definitely all for residents of Colorado to have some advantage over out-of-state applicants, but out-of-country? Illegally at that? I don’t think so.

Lets say you have a cousin who wants to move here and go to CU or CSU, hey, that would be cool, they would at least have some family nearby. But their tuition is exorbitant being out-of-state, but not for someone here illegally. Does that seem the least bit fair? Basically we’d be subsidizing someone here illegally at the expense of U.S. citizens.

Here’s an idea: go ahead and get all of those illegal immigrants applications who want to come to these schools we help fund in one way or another. Dump them on some new school run by “educators” like Mr. McCoy who want this subsidizing (on your dime) of said illegal immigrants, and they can have a new college just for them. It won’t be CU or CSU caliber (in this case especially), but what do you want for half off while you don’t pay in to the system that’s helping to fund you?

In the meantime, their immigration status can be verified – one way or the other.

What is with this attitude of getting something for nothing? Why would Mr. McCoy (among others) want this? Without the “immigration status” part, I can understand, but with it? It’s pandering, pure and simple. It’s not about human rights or fair treatment – unless you’re here illegally of course. Remember back to one of my podcasts where I said “White guilt does not equal racial tolerance“? This is about getting votes, nothing more, nothing less. And looky here, there’s a Longmont City Council election coming up in November.

That’s alright, you may forget. I’ll make sure to remind you.

A progressive assault on Longmont-area churches

News is out that the city of Longmont has spent $68,073 in legal fees to thwart the Firestone annexations that would facilitate the LifeBridge Union development. This spiteful expense of taxpayer dollars–pushed by left-wing Progressives Sean McCoy and Karen Benker on city council–is even more outrageous considering the current skintight city budget situation.

The Boulder County commissioners have been just as vengeful in their notorious dealings with Rocky Mountain Christian Church. Recently it was revealed that Boulder County has spent a staggering $1.1 million in legal efforts to prevent RMCC from expanding its church facilities on its own property in Niwot.

What’s going on here is clearly a violation of religious freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. One could argue that our local churches worship the Creator as defended by our nation’s founders, while the new wave of Progressives in Longmont and Boulder County worship the environment (i.e., the Holy Grail of Open Space).

Regarding the Union project in relation to Longmont and Firestone, we repeatedly hear from the green-extreme crowd, “We need to protect Longmont’s eastern borders!” Take a look at the images shown below…

2002

Source: Project LifeBridge Master Plan

2007

Photo: Jill P. Mott Longmont Times-Call

As I have pointed out many times, large housing developments already exist to the immediate east and west of the LifeBridge/Union site; commercial development stands to the south, and there is plenty of city-owned open space to the north in the reservoir surroundings. How in the world would a build-out of the Union plot break up Longmont’s eastern borders?

The only possible point of contention would be the Fairlight (FairView) property areas that are truly on Longmont’s eastern border, but this too was addressed in a spirit of compromise by Firestone and the 4C Corporation. It was described by Firestone Mayor Chad Auer in a Times-Call commentary last December…

“When I took office, I promptly appeared face-to-face with Longmont’s City Council and told your leaders that I was committed to investigating common ground on this regrettably decisive issue (Union). Because open space and a community buffer were central desires of Longmont, I presented a written proposal in which the Fairlight property (hundreds of acres between Union and Longmont) would be available to Longmont for use as both an open space corridor in the flood plain of Union Reservoir and a common sense community buffer. Unfortunately, the offer was soundly rejected by Longmont officials.”

So Longmont had its chance. If it couldn’t afford to buy the immediate eastern border properties as open space, tough luck. Let us hope that the foundations of free enterprise and religious freedom will not be lost if we are truly to progress in the 21st century.

Hopenchange™, Longmont style

Just when you thought you’d had enough to lose your lunch on, Longmont has it’s own helping of Hopenchange™. Granted, it’s not nearly as eloquent as the real thing, but witness the gushing (and reading with the hands) of our city’s version of President Obama’s inaugural speech, courtesy of councilmember (and rumored Mayoral candidate) Sean McCoy.

Were you moved? Or was that just part of your digested food shifting around? But Mr. McCoy is right in some respects; some change is needed here closer to home. He asked, via Obama’s speech, whether our government works. The local version doesn’t seem to be working so well. He also mentioned “does it help people find jobs”? This coming from one of the most anti-business, anti-growth councils, where open fields (aka “green fields”) don’t pay building permit fees or much in the way of property taxes. All things to keep in mind as services are cut, wages are frozen, and city workers laid off.

And those of us who manage the public dollars…(pause)…will be held to account”, you got that right. I would’ve paused too at that point given this council’s propensity for procrastination when it comes to making serious decisions, chicken’s not withstanding. If this council wants to “put people at ease”, as Mr. McCoy put it, how about putting their political career where their mouth is and make some kind of pledge of self term limiting or stepping down for their performance, or lack thereof? I know, not likely.

The other form of Hopenchange™ that’s getting a little old is the weekly gloating about “service”. Doing things for charity or good causes loses some of its luster when you go around bragging about it. Most people I know who donate food, clothes, money, and time do it because they want to, and don’t have to be forced or reminded to by a group of people. They also don’t wear it like a tiara in public, “hey, look what I did, did you?” I’m not sure what the mindset is here, do they think it’s a small minority of people who give, in whatever form that is? Do they think because they maybe don’t give year-round as much as they should, the rest of us are like that, or feel some guilt?

Ironically, these are the same types who relentlessly tear into organizations that donate on a level that dwarfs their own once in a decade events – oh, like Lifebridge. The only time I heard someone from Lifebridge go through the long list of community services they provide was when one of these other people asked, in their usual snotty way. Otherwise, Lifebridge, like the majority of people, don’t need a “call to service” to serve. They just do it, and they don’t constantly remind everyone about it.

“Complete Waste Of Time”

At the December 2 Longmont City Council Meeting, the topic that took up most of the night was the recommendations from the Election Task Force. What none of you saw on television, and many attending possibly missed was the anger, and rightly so, from some on the task force at the councils vote. The comments “complete waste of time” and “six months for nothing” were heard.

When I talked to some of them after the meeting, I told them they must’ve seen this coming. In my comments to council I was concerned that the minority opinion of the task force would become the majority vote on council. And it did.

Forget for a minute your opinion on contribution limits, which was the main issue at the council meeting. This group was formed to do a job. There were diverse opinions and they worked hard since May. They met every other week through July, then once a week after that. I could only attend one of the earlier meetings, but it was obvious they had their work cut out for them.

Lots of people said negative things about this task force at Public Invited To Be Heard, but how many of them showed up at any of these meetings? My problem isn’t so much the dollar amounts, it’s the discarding of the well studied and organized majority opinion and all the work this task force did over the last several months.

Task force members Doug Brown and Chris Colelli made some of the best arguments and comments of how the group came to the conclusions it did, and I’ll probably pull some of their audio for my next podcast. The warnings were that if you mess with one part of their work, it will have ramifications on other parts. And that lower amounts could lead to legal challenges. These pleas were ignored.

Also ignored were some of the numbers from the city’s satisfaction survey. While people did vote in favor of the idea of contribution limits, what was more interesting were the limits they voted for. Combining all limits (individual, group, and in-kind) 48.6% of those surveyed voted for between $500 to No Limit on campaign contributions.

So where is council getting this idea that contributions should be $100 or $200 like many of them said? Not from the task force, not from the survey, so where?

I’m guessing from some of their unelected vocal supporters. Ironically, these same people (and councilmembers for that matter) complain about past councils being owned and ran from some shady influences in town. How is this any different? Just because you now agree with it, does that make it alright?

City Council Rules! (Of Procedure)

In yet another contentious Longmont City Council meeting on October 21, there was one bit of irony I couldn’t let slip by. Councilmember Sarah Levison brought up City Council RULE 19: RECONSIDERATION in opposition to a motion Gabe Santos made which would effectively reverse a motion she made the previous week.

The rule reads: After the decision on any question, any member who voted with the prevailing side may move to reconsider the decision at the same meeting or at the next meeting at which Rule 25 permits final or official action on the subject question. Rule 25 spells out when there will be meetings, whether they’re regular or study session, and public postings of these meetings and their agendas.

At the September 23 regular session meeting, City Manager Gordon Pedrow told council they had a decision to make about a meeting on November 4 (Election Day) or November 11 (Veterans Day). Council voted to have an early and abbreviated meeting on November 4. The minutes for that meeting aren’t available yet, and Mayor Lange said it passed but didn’t say if it was unanimous or not. Ms. Levison said “I do not want to meet on Veterans Day”, so it’s assumed she voted for November 4. So she may have well voted with the “prevailing side”, as Rule 19 specifies.

But, on October 14, Ms. Levison brought this issue up again and tried to get council to reconsider having a meeting on Veterans Day, stating that she didn’t know that not having it then meant having it Thanksgiving week. Two problems with this: first, Mr. Pedrow stated during his comments on September 23 as they were considering this, that this indeed would mean a meeting during “Thanksgiving week”. Secondly, when she brought it up for reconsideration, it wasn’t during the same meeting or even the next meeting. Did she violate the very rule she was trying to use for her own purposes?

Granted, it may be debatable that a meeting date is a final or official action. But since this decision, it has been posted on subsequent agendas that the November 11 meeting has been cancelled. Either way, Ms. Levison went back on her earlier statement, and I could not find a single councilmember who spoke in favor of meeting on Veterans Day. So why bring it back up for reconsideration?

What Mr. Santos wanted reconsideration of was a questionable vote last week where two councilmembers abstained from voting. City Attorney Clay Douglas made an on-the-spot decision involving this issue, which he now seems to be reversing, which changes everything and should make that earlier vote invalid. So, in reality, this is not a reconsideration at all. It’s a clarification and correction.

This is an undecided item and might get resolved behind closed doors next week at yet another Executive Session. By Mr. Santo’s count, this should be the 21st of these types of “closed to the public” meetings.

That must be a record, and not one to be proud of. The new councilmembers promised a more open and accessible governing body when they ran for election. This staggering amount of closed door meetings proves, beyond any doubt, the contrary.

Give It A Rest


When I first heard Councilmember Sarah Levison repeatedly bring up the Brennan Center for Justice as a “non-partisan” organization to help frame the new Campaign finance reform, I, and I assume others, let it go trusting Ms. Levison was just trying to do what was best for Longmont.

In a recent Longmont City Council meeting, Ms. Levison mentioned how some members on the task force were getting tired of hearing about this organization. Now the truly “non-partisan” nature of this group is coming in to question.

In the September 13, 2008 New York Times, the newspaper of “record” (or lining birdcages, and fewer birdcages every day) spun very nicely a story of getting the word out to former convicted felons, often as they are just barely out of prison. Who’s getting this word out and actively pursuing these people? First there’s the Voter Registration Drive (VRD) organization that gives the rest of us VRD‘s a bad name, ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). Just Google them, (add ” Obama” to the search and it gets really interesting) the results will be “voter fraud” across several states.

Next up is the ACLU, NAACP, the Sentencing Project, and…the Brennan Center for Justice. Neither presidential candidate chose to be involved with this operation, but the NY Times noted ” Last month, Obama campaign workers took down a sign at their headquarters in Pottstown, Pa., that said ” Felons can vote,because it might have sent the wrong message.” That can be taken a few ways, you decide for yourself. But the point is ” the company you keep”, etc.

Then there’s the NY Times article entitled ” A Book Club Courts Liberals” about the Progressive Book Club. This is all well and good, as there are all kinds of book clubs, including a Conservative Book Club. But if the Brennan Center was non-partisan, it would advertise for both, or neither. I can’t find any mention of the Conservative Book Club on Brennan’s site, but the NY Times article had this: ” Participating organizations, which will also advertise the Progressive Book Club on their Web sites and help recruit members, include the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law; the Foundation for National Progress, which publishes Mother Jones magazine; and the Wellstone Action Fundand ” alliance partnerDaily Kos. Again, the company you keep, and the above are far from middle of the road groups like Ms. Levison claims Brennan is.

Just a quick glance at Wikipedia says they’re a ” progressive” institute named after Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan who (according to Wikipedia again) was ” Known for his outspoken liberal views, including opposition to the death penalty and support for abortion rights.” Some of you might recall his claim of the death penalty as being ” cruel and unusual” punishment describing in gruesome detail this process, apparently having more sympathy for hardened criminals than the innocent unborn.

But the center’s naming after him, and the connections above are all just a coincidence, is that what we are lead to believe?

If Ms. Levison wants to use them as a resource that works out for the best interests of Longmont, fine. Even if they are partisan, that’s fine, too (unless they are a non-profit organization). But can we dispense with the charade of this organization (Brennan) being above politics?

( emphasis added in NY Times quotes)