More City Council Buffoonery

Anyone happen to catch tonights Longmont City Council meeting? Once again the simple task of choosing applicants for advisory boards descending into utter nonsense. How hard is this?

For the board in question, there were 4 applicants, and 3 positions: 2 primary and 1 alternate. The deadline was somewhere around 10 days ago, as a clear answer was not given by the City Clerk of when this was. So if you, like me, looked at the City Council agenda that came out last Friday, and every Friday before each meeting, there were the applications of the nominees.

It’s been the opinion of more than a few that our new majority on council is cherry picking candidates for these appointments. One of the applicants put on his application that his neighbor, Councilmember Karen Benker, was who advised him of this spot. Hmmm, okay, we’ll let that go for now.

So, councilmembers had a few days to consider the 4 applicants. But at the council meeting, Sean McCoy lets it be known that he and Brian Hansen have submitted 2 applicants of their own, AFTER THE DEADLINE! I bet you can see where this is going.

Councilmember Mary Blue had recused herself prior to this as she had a family member in the list of applicants. Gabe Santos brought up the point that one time he had put in an application for a board after the deadline and there was no special rule change or consideration for him, and there not should be one for these two applicants. So they put it to a vote: should council suspend the rules of the application deadline for these two applicants. Here’s where I think City Attorney Clay Douglas made a mistake: while Councilmember Blue was recused from the vote involving her relative, she should NOT have been recused from her vote on this change of rules. Do you want to guess how this vote went? Yeahs: Benker, Levison, McCoy, and Hansen.

So, not only does this out of control bloc blatantly disregard the rules that have been in place for I’d guess a long time, they make it so they can vote on it, and pass this questionable procedure. And no, they didn’t vote to change an ordinance or any resolutions, you know, the stuff that makes the rules they’re supposed to follow. They just wormed their way around it. Very democratic.

Lastly, want to guess who made the cut for this board? One of the primary members was the aforementioned Benker-invited nominee, the other was one of these late and very questionable additions. Councilmembers had all of maybe a few minutes to look at their applications, if that. Note to some councilmembers: when some people say you’re doing a great job, maybe they’re not talking about YOU specifically.

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.

Out Of Order

Something happened at the February 26, 2008 Longmont City Council meeting that so far has gone unreported, and is very troubling. A video of it can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeTDvIyK6WM

Let me set the stage, as the video alone may not explain it all. Late into the meeting around 10:30pm, the council was voting for members of various boards in the city. First, there was some discussion on the nominees, a motion, and a vote by a show of hands. When it was time for the Cable Trust Board, the eligibility of one of the nominees, Charlie Fellenbaum, was discussed followed by a motion by Councilmember Santos that Stephanie Baum be appointed to this board, followed by a second, then a call for a vote. Here’s where it got interesting.

Councilmembers Blue, Santos, Hansen, and Mayor Lange raised their hands, signaling a majority of council. Turn the volume up and you then hear Councilmember Benker saying ” NO“. As the camera changes angles, she’s clearly saying that towards Mr. Hansen, hand still in the air. Mayor Lange looks exasperated as he says ” Hey Karen?!” as she’s clearly out of order. Yet she just takes over the discussion, clearly angry over what just happened. She goes on to comment about Mr. Fellenbaum, who wasn’t the subject of the vote, and even claims he has ” more interest than the other candidate“! She ends her tantrum by throwing herself back towards her chair in disgust. Mayor Lange rightly points out that there was a motion, and a vote.

Hopefully most of you see what’s wrong here, but since I know some of you will defend some of these councilmembers no matter what, I guess I have to explain it. I don’t have my Roberts Rules of Order handy, but this was so blatantly out of line it’s not even funny. How often do you see councilmembers, during a vote, telling other councilmembers how to vote? Never for me. The Mayor is the chair of this committee, Karen Benker wasn’t recognized by the chair, the chair was making it clear with his words and body language that he was not thrilled with her behavior. Didn’t stop her though, did it?

So, was Brian Hansen expected to vote a certain way? It’s not inconceivable that he misheard Fellenbaum for Stephanie Baum. But what if he really meant to vote the way he did, who is Karen Benker to tell himNO“? I thought each member was independent? I haven’t harped on this ” Benker 4” or ” bloc of 4” since the election, figuring I’d evaluate each one separately. And some members of council have been making noise about the general public tearing into the new members. Do you want to know why? THIS is why. The point was just proven.

In a private letter to Brian Hansen, who is my ward’s councilmember, this is what I said about this so-called ‘bloc': ” The accusation and assumption (of a bloc) is a lack of independence by individual members, and a vote-by-committee agreement or arrangement. What transpired Tuesday night only reinforces that mindset.”

So what was reinforced? The opinion that, a) certain councilmembers pre-coordinate votes as a group, b) perhaps their nominee was a plant – who on council knows him? What were the circumstances of his nomination? I’ll leave it to someone else to connect the dots, and there are dots. c) Don’t cross the group or show independence without pre-coordinating that – or face the wrath, television cameras or not, and, d) parliamentary rules be damned, there’s an agenda to be pushed.

Personally, I’m getting pretty tired of councilmembers like Sean McCoy and his weekly insults (that now include the Times-Call and its TC-Line) and whining about citizens perceptions of the new council. Those perceptions now have some base in reality, as proven above. So please, tell me, with a straight face, that you don’t discuss as a group upcoming votes. That you think it’s alright to skirt the rules plenty of other councils have abided by. That it’s okay to tell other members how to vote during a meeting. This is a disgrace.

One thing I try to keep in mind, especially with my kids, is that it’s easy to remember the truth – there’s only one version of it. But when you are scheming behind the scenes, and there are a few people involved, it’s not as easy to keep your ducks in a row, now is it?

Step Right Up, Place Your Bets

It’s too bad you can’t gamble in this country on politics. What, are people worried it might make politicians cheat? HAHAHAHA. That was a good one, sorry.

So we’re on the eve of a special election here in Longmont. One thing I’m glad to see is way more people jumping in than usual, whether it’s in the Open Forum of the Times-Call or websites and blogs. Lots going on, lots being said, how will it impact the final result? Again, I don’t mind if I’m wrong on a prediction, and since I already sort of made one earlier about this election, I’ll follow up on it.

I said that Gabe Santos would lose the November election, but win the special election. This was before anyone officially entered this latest race. Now let’s go through what’s different about this race, events that may have shifted things, etc.

Turnout: This is the great unknown and any prediction is tough not knowing how this will go. In November’s election 15,086 people voted for the at-large seat. Special elections tend to not bring out as many voters, at first I figured 80% of November’s turnout. But this cycle has been different, the Times-Call did a large story about this, and maybe the turnout will be about the same after all.

Candidates: In November’s election Santos received 6,319 votes, or 41.9% of the vote. Paul Tiger received 1,758 votes and is not running this time. I can’t see why someone who voted for Santos in November would change it now. Tiger endorsed Richard Juday, not sure how many people caught that, not sure if it matters to Libertarian voters, and not sure if it helps! (Sorry Paul, people like us don’t always help with our endorsements). So I gave 60% of Tigers votes to Juday. To give 100% of Sarah Levison’s votes to Juday though is a stretch and pretty presumptuous.

The DeLay Factor: Zip, nada, zero. The people that hate Tom DeLay probably weren’t going to vote for Santos anyway. The people who already voted for Santo’s or have no problem with DeLay may have been offended by this stretch of “guilt by association”. Even if you spot a couple hundred votes for this, which is a couple hundred too many, doesn’t affect the outcome.

“Attack” Ad: Apparently, some voters (supposedly just Republicans) got a mailer that wasn’t too friendly towards Juday. I seriously thought it was a hoax or someone trying to “punk” Juday and his supporters. But apparently it really went out. Oddly enough a quote supposedly from my website was on it. I can’t remember where I saw that, but I sure didn’t write that quote and it wasn’t ever on my site. Anyway, who does this ad help/hurt? Those that were going to vote for Juday anyway – this only reinforces their feelings, and they probably didn’t receive it anyway, only heard about it. Those that would lean against Juday – this would reinforce them also, and they probably did receive it if it only went out to one party. So, stalemate? I don’t think so.

In today’s Times-Call they talked about voters by party affiliation. Increased Republican turnout (those receiving these ads) is a bad thing for Juday. These may be people that didn’t vote in November, and also probably people that were not happy with Lifebridge’s treatment, courtesy of Juday and his supporters. Many of these people probably don’t want to be Boulder Jr. either. Like this ad or hate it, I don’t remember ever seeing anything quite like it for a Longmont election, and its impact could be huge.

Final Days: Also in today’s paper were some political ads and op-eds by Santos and Juday. Juday’s ad said “Please, before responding to attack material”…visit his website for solid information. His editorial was titled ” Longmont deserves better“, not sure if he titled it or the Times-Call. I know the point was to say elections shouldn’t be so dirty, but the title implies what Longmont has now (in council or anywhere else) sucks. Yeah, voters like hearing that, being blamed for any and all ills. Juday spent much of his piece being on the defensive, not where a candidate wants to be in the final stretch. Add to that voluntarily not accepting donations and returning checks a week before the election? While it may be noble, I guess, signs and advertisements take money. If there’s a perception a candidate is throwing in the towel (not saying he is), most voters want to vote for a winner, not someone who wraps up his campaign before Election Day.

Santo’s editorial was titled ” Longmont‘s community cares” and the contrast between these two messages and these two editorials are worth some votes. Perhaps a lot of votes. I’m sure some detractor can find something to pick apart in Santo’s editorial, but it was fairly positive from start to finish. Let’s just see their last paragraphs, remember, these are sort of the closing arguments, they matter: Juday: “On my website you may see some corrections to distributed misinformation”. Santos: “I’m inspired by what I see, and I wish to give it back. I believe I am the right choice for City Council. I respectfully ask for your vote. If you have already voted for me, please accept my most sincere thank you.” Hey, it was longer, take out a sentence or two to make it even. End result is the same.

Conclusion: Based on the previous election, possible turnout, candidates actions, advertising (good and bad), signage, money, and intangibles, let me throw out this prediction: Santos 7,333 (48.6%) / Juday 6,144 (40.7%) / Baxter 1,509 (10%) / Write-in 100 (0.7%). Knowing that prediction alone could drive a few people to get their voting butts in gear, and knowing I could be all wet on those numbers and outcomes, there it is. Yep, another plurality, not a majority. And if 595 votes swap, different outcome.

I’d like to see some thoughtful prognostication(s?) (in other words, spare the wishful thinking). No one’s prediction should be held against them, unless they turn out to be clairvoyant geniuses! Can’t gamble, but can have bragging rights – until the next election.

Somebody Trying To Hide Something?

Different people in different ways make my work easier. Some people are outspoken, often offensive and abrasive. Then once in a while they screw up and try to bury it. Then other people, occasionally anonymously, do some of the footwork and get the information to me either directly or indirectly. I’m more than happy to be another outlet to get that information out to a wider audience. Nearly all of this latter group I’ve never met, emailed, or spoken to. And credit is deserved.

The people backing Richard Juday for City Council in this upcoming election are spending much of their time trying to smear opposing candidates. Yet at the same time they’re being very sneaky about hiding certain things their candidate has written in the past. The TakeBackLongmont website has been out in front defending against the smears on Gabe Santos, and has been blistering towards Mr. Juday in some of his comments conveniently removed from his website. You can find a link to a cached version of it at their website.

Another reader sent me a link to Mr. Juday’s Report of Contributions and Expenditures, click on it to read it, it’s public information. You’ll see some familiar names, including most of the often mentioned “bloc of 4″ as already reported in the Times-Call. Oddly missing is an “in kind” contribution from the person who’s maintaining his website, or is that service free, or self administered? Only reason I ask is over these pages that were so abruptly pulled down. What was on the Science Vs Creationism page? Some of your potential voters might like to know.

(Pay attention Councilmembers Benker, McCoy, Levison, and Hansen, these questions are for you also, as you either accepted Mr. Judays support in your races, or have donated to his candidacy, or both. You can either respond publicly, or get repeatedly asked and publicly embarrassed. Remember the more open and listening council idea? Here’s to see if you really meant it.)

Mr. Juday wrote of big box stores and his obvious disdain for them, which is his right. But what he removed from his website was his idea, or approval of this: ” write down license numbers and trace them to residence” in reference to finding out who’s shopping where. Or having the customer report his city, if asked. He’s toned that down to its current version of ” recorded zip codes of shoppers.” So we have a choice of ” Big Box” or ” Big Brother” thanks to Mr. Juday and friends. Also, Mr. Juday needs to respond to whether he approved or encouraged the questionable practice of secretly videotaping signers of the Lifebridge anti-annexation petition. He proudly led his group to city hall with those petitions, if he’s the leader, he needs to answer. If I hear ” no big deal” over this, I can’t imagine the people being taped unknowingly would agree.

Here’s what it boils down to. Mr. Juday and his pals in and out of council don’t like places like Walmart, BestBuy, Costco (funny they don’t mention Target, quite a big box) and want to make it hard on them to do business. Not only that, they look down on you for shopping there and want to collect information on those of you that chose to go there, whatever your reason. This is NOT Longmont, at least not the Longmont I chose to move to. This is elitist thuggery and if Mr. Juday and those on council that lean with him don’t answer these important points, they should be held accountable, severely. And no answers equal agreement with these comments and actions.

I’m not asking you to vote for a particular candidate, but I am asking you NOT to vote for this candidate, Mr. Juday. If you have a problem with the new members of council over this, take it up with them, but they were already elected.

Election Autopsy Pt. 2

This next part about the recent election has to do with who voted, and more importantly, who didn’t.

Roughly, half of the residents of Longmont are registered to vote, and roughly half of those actually did vote. About 17,000 people bothered to vote, that’s pretty sad. With a turnout that low, no one on either side can claim any mandate, message, or claim “the people spoke”. Barely anyone actually won by a majority (50.1% or higher). But, of those that did win in city council, the new majority comprises a different direction. Continue reading…

2007 Election Autopsy Pt. 1


The election numbers are all in, and there’s enough fodder for several stories, so let’s get started with Part 1. 

Let’s get this out of the way first, as I know you’re all dying to know how the great prognosticator (me) did, being I’ve written about predicting elections. The Nintendo Wii has this cool polling feature called the “Everybody Votes Channel”. What I like about it is not only do you vote, but you also get to predict how the vote will go. Quite often my predictions do not correlate to my votes; this local election was no different. In the 11 votes I was able to cast (Mayor, council, school district, and ballot issues) I scored 82%, or 9-2. That doesn’t mean that’s how I voted, just how I predicted. Ever the finger on the pulse…etc.

The two I got wrong? SVVSD District G between Schiers and Bohaning, which I picked the latter, and was the last race to be called, and by a razor thin margin. So I can accept that. The other one was, ironically, my own Ward, the race between Rawlins and Hansen. The Times-Call, and Hansen himself, mentioned what a surprise it was. I had noticed more Hansen signs around this ward, but in the end I think it was a couple things. First, Rawlins youth, which I didn’t see as a disadvantage, could’ve been a factor to some voters. Second, the implication Rawlins was “hand picked” by some “good ol’ boy network“, which I never bought, probably didn’t help. The Times-Call endorsement may have turned voters away as well. Lastly, the gamble of this “gang of four” to run as a block of candidates may have been enough to put Hansen over the top.

Surprises to me? The margin Roger Lange won the mayors seat by. I figured he’d win, but not by the largest margin of any of the council races. Karen Benker, more than any other candidate, ran on the anti-Lifebridge annexation and her sole “no” vote on it. Lange voted for the annexation and I don’t remember seeing him apologize for it. More people voted on this race than any other, and Benker was soundly defeated. Is this an indicator of how the Lifebridge vote will go in January? Hard to say, I think Lange had name recognition and more council experience on his side.


I can’t say for sure, only by what I hear and read, but I never got the impression that people disliked Lange. I can’t say the same for Benker. I think it may, may, have played into peoples minds that no matter who won, the other would still be there on council. The only difference being whose seat would sit vacant for almost 3 months, and from what pool would the next councilmember come from. Turns out it will be Lange’s “at-large” seat, so anyone in the city can run and vote on it. With Gabe Santos getting over 6,000 votes for the at-large race he lost, it makes sense to put him at the top of the list of potential candidates in January.

But I could be all wrong about the above, but a 9-2 chance I’m not.  (Gabe Santos did run in the special election, and won handily)

Do Endorsements Matter?

Who do you trust with endorsements? They’re coming out of the woodwork right now for the upcoming election, and even one for the Lifebridge Annexation which isn’t even on the ballot.

Endorsements can either be a blessing, or the kiss of death, depending on your views. Something I figured was going on was verified in a recent letter in the paper: ” If you endorse this guy, I’m voting for the opposite!” was basically how it went. I’m going to assume most people figure in more than just that when picking a candidate, but you never know.

“Belonging” is important to some people. A club, a party, an association, a loose group of like-minded people, etc. Sometimes these groups, especially political parties, send out their mailers with their roster of picks. It’s so easy to just take this along with you to the voting precinct. Or take the suggestions of your little activist group, with the only question being ” how do we think and vote about this?” Yes, endorsements just make life easier – for the unthinking or easily steered.

Now to specifics on this election. The Times-Call has endorsed candidates Lange, Rawlins, Santos, and Finley and is in favor of the Lifebridge/Union annexation. Longmont’s Fraternal Order of Police and Longmont’s Firefighters’ Association have endorsed candidates Benker, Hansen, McCoy, and Levison. The anti-Lifebridge group, as far as I can tell, has only publicly endorsed Benker for Mayor, and of course is against the Union annexation.

While endorsements do have their place, usually in the back of your mind as you prepare to cast your vote, it’s okay to question those that would have you vote a certain way. Don’t be a lockstep lemming, even if you agree with your fellow lemmings 90% of the time. If you have to “walk off the reservation”, that’s alright, it’s called being in-de-pen-dent, give it a whirl.

Election’s Only The Beginning

There will be a special election in early 2008 in Longmont, we’re just not sure yet who or what will be on the ballot. If Roger Lange wins the Mayor seat, his ” at-large” seat goes up for grabs and Karen Benker remains the Ward 2 councilmember. This means more than likely the two candidates who didn’t win the “at-large” seat in November’s election will run for this seat. Not a bad deal, a second chance at winning a seat. So it’s possible that two candidates that go at each other very well could later be sitting next to each other in city council chambers.

On the other hand, if Karen Benker wins the Mayor seat, her Ward 2 seat needs to be filled by a special election. I don’t know if any of the at-large candidates actually live within Ward 2, but if they don’t, someone we don’t currently know of will have to hustle and get some signatures to run for it.

The other item is the Lifebridge Annexation question. The 10/17/07 Times-Call article may have left a few confused about what really happened in the most recent City Council meeting, hopefully as you read this or soon it will be a little more clear. They ” agreed” to put it to voters, but won’t actually ” vote” to put it on the ballot until October 23 or November 13. This may be just a small procedural issue, but if I’m reading past stories correctly about this, they may not necessarily vote YES to put it on the ballot. Then what happens?

I suspect they will vote to put it on the special election ballot, or expect pitchforks and torches at their doorstep. There always is the option of rescinding their earlier annexation vote and leaving it up the next council to handle it. On the surface this may seem a victory for the petition gatherers, as an election is not a sure winner. But in reality the new council may vote the same way, probably not 6-1, but 5-2 or 4-3 is very likely.

I’ll ask some of you to remove your rose colored glasses in your hoped-for election outcomes, and ponder this prediction. Here is the future (post special election) council: Lange (Mayor), Rawlins, Benker, Blue, Levison, and Santos. Ward 3 is too close to call, but even if McCoy wins, that’s not an anti-annexation friendly council. Of course this all changes if Benker becomes Mayor, but not by a lot. And it is just my prediction, which might not be worth the paper this is printed on.

Don’t be in a rush to cast that vote. Watch the candidate forum that is being played on Channel 3, visit the candidate’s websites and read their positions and platforms. Call or write them, see where they sit on issues important to you. Be suspicious of the ad pushing a ” block” of candidates, not saying you shouldn’t vote for them, but beware the ” package deal“. Unless you prefer someone else to do the thinking for you.

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.