A Failure To Communicate

What we’ve got here is failure to communicatefromCool Hand Luke(1967 Warner Bros).

I don’t talk much here about my day job (not at all yet) where communicating effectively can be the difference, literally, between life and death. I’ve been on both sides of that: from being the voice heard that saved a life or lives, or the last one to hear someone else’s voice on this mortal coil. That’s all that needs to be said about that, but know I’m not exaggerating. The importance of communication cannot be understated.

Where I may slightly differ from the general public is what I consider effective communication. In my case the message must be understood (and confirmed) or communication did not take place. For the rest of society, it’s not so dire. Effective communicating can just be making a good speech, or writing a good article with little to no concern in how it’s received or understood. For the purposes of this article, I’m talking about a two-way street. ( And yes, I know what “dialogue” is, just couldn’t slip in this “Cool Hand Luke” reference with it.)

I spoke at the 3/4/08 Longmont City Council meeting about campaign finance. Councilmember Brian Hansen, in the only comment or response to anything I’ve said, mischaracterized my comments. He said ” I know one person said something to the effect that we just are looking this after our latest election and that’s not actually true. We did look at this before that, and so we’re not trying to target anybody in that regard.” Either he has a bad memory or doesn’t listen well. Earlier when I spoke, and I said this clearly and looking right at council as it wasn’t part of my prepared remarks, ” I heard about this before the January election, about campaign finance.”

The other ironic thing is that on January 11th (which would also be before the special election) I sent all the councilmembers an email about campaign rules. To her credit, Karen Benker responded quickly to this email. Unfortunately, around the same time during a council meeting, she made the campaign rules personal against then candidate Gabe Santos. She paid the price for those comments by a lambasting by residents during the January 29th council meeting, and rightly so. How Mr. Hansen could forget that episode, which clearly showed people heard Ms. Benkers campaign finance opinions before the latest election, is beyond me.

As some of you may remember, I had a problem with a recent confusing vote for a board applicant. I wrote a very fair and friendly letter to Mr. Hansen, not an “open letter”, not sent to the Times-Call, not sent to all of the other council members, about his vote, or mis-vote, whichever the case may be. Considering we heard about how these new members would be so open and listening to their constituents, and that I made it clear in this letter I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, all I got back was silence. No, worse than silence, I got my comments twisted by my wards councilmember.

My previous ward’s councilmember, Doug Brown, who I didn’t always agree with on policy, never played this game with me or anyone I know who had dealings with him. I never expect a response when I write elected officials, it’s the main reason I do my “communicating” to them through websites and letters to the editor. At least Mr. Brown had the common decency to not misrepresent my words publicly, but also went the extra effort to call, email, or want to get together to discuss the issues. Perhaps he set the bar too high for any of his successors to live up to.

This behavior is very disappointing, and elected officials shouldn’t expect to enjoy endless benefit of the doubt. It has its limits. I asked for some inkling that there wasn’t this “bloc” mentality, and while silence alone may not have been enough to convince the true believers, what he did sealed the deal for me.

There is a ” bloc“, and they aren’t all great listeners. Deal with it.

The Costs Of Elections

Some astute visitors to my site (aren’t they all?) voiced their concerns about the possibility of a costly special election to backfill a city councilmember seat. As some of you have probably read, three current council members are running for Mayor. If Roger Lange or Karen Benker win, their seat will become vacant and since there is a specified amount of time left in that position, another election must be held to fill it. This could cost between $50k and $100k at a time when we’re hearing about shortfalls in revenues and cuts in services in the city.

The third councilmember running is Doug Brown, who is being term-limited out of office. (Campaign Manager hat on: Doug, how often can politicians say they’ll save you money and/or save some city services if you “vote for me”, and really mean it, and can deliver on it? Okay, hat off). If Mr. Brown wins, basically the city saves a bunch of money. But there’s a two thirds chance we’ll be forking out for a special election. Since I’m sure it’s part of the city charter, there’s not much we can do about it. The only future options are to not allow current council members to run for Mayor, or to not backfill vacant seats, whether due to promotion (to Mayor), sickness, or death. I don’t see either of those options as realistic, so we’re stuck with what we have.

This got me to thinking about another costly ballot situation: The Union/LifeBridge annexation issue. Here we’re being asked, no, told, that we must pony up somewhere between $60k and $100k to put on the ballot a question of overturning a city council decision to annex this development into Longmont. This is not an up/down decision on whether it should be built, just if it should be part of Longmont. That’s an important distinction. I’ll assume the petition gatherers made that clear to the people who signed it.

One of the petition gatherers said ” the buck and a half it would cost per voter is a rare bargain to have the community speak on so significant a question.” Up until now I was pretty much staying out of this issue, but some of these people’s comments and tactics can’t go unchallenged (and no, I’m not a member of Lifebridge). Where to begin with this claptrap. First, 6,000 people signed this, that’s what, less than 10% of the population in Longmont? Yet they have the right to charge the rest of us a ” buck and a half” for anything? Who died and declared you…well I better not say “God” that might offend them. How about we divide the fee amongst the 6,000 petition signers, that’s only somewhere between $10 and $17 each, what’s the problem?

Second, that’s not just a charge ” per voter“, that’s something everyone who pays sales and use taxes will pay for. People complain about elected officials unfairly raising taxes, how about a small minority of unelected citizens? Is that okay?

Third, although I may at times disagree with council votes on issues, they were legally elected to represent us. How long has this been going through all the processes required? This wasn’t just sprung upon the poor, unwitting citizenry. And the vote wasn’t even all that close, 6-1. But some people didn’t like it. Well, I don’t like a lot of decisions they make, does that give me the right to force the rest of the city residents to pay for it? I don’t think so. Lastly, I suggest you Google “union annex”, and visit both sides’ websites and educate yourself. Check the maturity level, and if you’re easily offended, don’t bother. That is, unless they start deleting.

I’m not saying you should vote for or against this ballot question, I’m just pointing out that IF this makes the ballot, the damage’s already been done financially to an already weak city budget. I better not hear these same types complain when the city cuts another $60k to $100k worth of programs and services. At least we know in part who to thank.

Longmont Election ’07 update

This upcoming election will be a mail-in ballot election. You have to be registered by October 9th to receive a ballot. They can’t make it a whole lot easier, let’s see if we can bring up the low turnout numbers.

Here is an update of the candidates for Longmont City Council. Also, I want to share a link to a website I stumbled across that I thought was pretty informative.

http://community.livejournal.com/longmont/22611.html

It has a ward map, pictures of candidates, and something I haven’t touched on – ballot initiatives and school district candidates. I found this by accident, don’t know the author, and he doesn’t know I’m linking to it. But when I find something worth sharing, and/or when someone’s just done a better job, why not expose more people to it?

There have been a couple of changes to the candidates running:

Current council members Roger Lange, Karen Benker, and Doug Brown are the candidates for the position of Mayor. This is an at-large position, everyone in the city can vote for this spot.

One of the At-Large seats is up for grabs, the candidates are Gabe Santos, Paul Tiger, and Sarah Levison. Like the Mayor position, anyone can vote for this position.

Ward One Councilmember. To vote for this seat you must live in the ward. Aaron Rawlins, James DeVore, Brian Hansen are the candidates.

Ward Three Councilmember. Same rules apply as with Ward One. Sean McCoy and Bonnie Finley are running for this seat.

There are a lot of hot topics in this city. Figure out which ones are important to you and find out where the candidates stand on them. Instead of complaining that you were snookered by politicians after they’re in office, get your questions answered before you vote for them. This isn’t rocket science.

City Council Needs You!

November’s not that far away, and that means election time for Longmont’s City Council. We’re bound to see some new faces as three members are being term-limited out, and one won’t be seeking re-election. As in the past, I’ll put the candidates on my site so you can get to know them. Although I’ve yet to endorse anyone, which could be the kiss of death anyway, the more people involved, the bigger the turnout, the better. This is an off-year election, not a general election, so interest usually runs pretty low. But with the possibility of turning over the majority of City Council, we should pay attention.

First off, the Mayor position. Mayor Julia Pirnack is being term-limited out, and I thank her for her service. This is an at-large position, everyone in the city can vote for this spot, and anyone in the city can run. So far, current councilmembers Roger Lange, Karen Benker, and Doug Brown have announced they are running.

Ward One Councilmember
. This ward is generally the east-northeast side of town currently being served by Doug Brown, who is being term-limited out of his seat. To run or vote for this seat you must live in the ward. Aaron Rawlins has announced his candidacy.

Ward Three Councilmember
. This ward is generally the northwest side of town currently being served by Marty Block, also a member being term-limited out of his seat. Same rules apply as with Ward One. Sean McCoy and Bonnie Finley are running for this seat.

One of the at-large seats is held by Fred Wilson, and he is not seeking re-election. Like the Mayor position, anyone can run and vote for this position. Gabe Santos, and Paul Tiger are running for this position.

All I’m looking for from a prospective council member is accountability and accessibility to their constituents first, and their staff members second. Remember who runs this city, you, the council, not some of these staffers who hide behind you, safe from the voter’s wrath. Don’t look for new and interesting ways to spend our money with more taxes and fees. Find ways to get more value out of what we pay, and find ways to lessen that burden, all the while being fair to your employees.

Candidates: Speak your mind, get heard, and good luck.

A Tax By Any Other Name

Part of the problem of trying to stay as topical as possible (as in matters of current interests, not a cream), is that as time goes by, it may become less relevant. Keeping that in mind, here is an issue in the upcoming (4/10/07) Longmont City Council meeting: Revised Airport Rules and Regulations by Code.

I was watching a recently Tivo’d council meeting when the idea of charging Mile Hi Skydiving (MHS) a $1 per jumper fee came up. The councilmember for my ward, Doug Brown, is a nice guy that I’ve had numerous occasions of having friendly conversations with. His eyes lit up with the possibility of this fee, he was doing some fuzzy math figuring out the thousands of dollars that could come the city’s way. Continue reading…