Longmont Advocate on the 11/17/09 Amy Oliver radio show

Another great big thanks goes out to Amy Oliver (AM1310 KFKA) for asking me to come on to her show to discuss Longmont politics.

We discussed several items, including

  • the ’07, ’08, and ’09 elections
  • Karen Benker
  • Wrongmont
  • Executive Sessions and ensuing Times-Call lawsuit
  • Firestone/LifeBridge annexations litigation
  • The price of activism and free speech
  • Longmont’s Fair Campaign Practice Act

Longmont Mayor Election analysis

The 2009 Longmont Election had four council seats up for grabs, including the office of Mayor.  Running for re-election was long time councilmember and one term mayor, Roger Lange.  There was some chatter that he couldn’t run for mayor due to term limits, but it didn’t get much traction, I never gave it much credit, and it became a moot point as it turns out.  Initially, Dan Benavidez announced he was running, but dropped out before collecting petitions.  Jeff Thompson did collect enough signatures, ran for a short while, but then also dropped out of the race.  Eventually, the race boiled down to two candidates, Roger Lange and late into the race was political newcomer Bryan Baum. Continue reading…

Benker pulls a Musgrave

If there was one thing I may have agreed with the leftwing loons in town about, it was that when former Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave lost to Betsy Markey, she should have at least conceded defeat and congratulated Ms. Markey.  Well, seems history has repeated – although in a different venue.  Not only hasn’t Karen Benker conceded victory to Katie Witt, or congratulated her, but she also skipped out on a Town Meeting on Saturday that was previously scheduled.  Outgoing Mayor Roger Lange kept this engagement, along with the opening of the Greenway later in the day.
Here’s sampling of one of the news articles about Marilyn Musgrave from The Colorado (Not So) Independent – and adapted for our particular situation.
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Not only has lame-duck Rep. Marilyn Musgrave Karen Benker still refused to concede to Betsy Markey Katie Witt, but the word is around D.C. Longmont that the Fort Morgan Republican Prospect Democrat has gone into hiding since the 12-point 20-point drubbing that cost the three-term congresswoman 1 and change term councilwoman her seat. “[More] rumors abound that no one has seen or talked to Musgrave Benker since the brutal loss; she’s all but disappeared,” Politico’s Anne Schroeder Mullins reported Tuesday morning Some guy on the street said the other day.

“It’s a campaign matter, and I have no further comment,” Musgrave’s congressional Benker’s council spokesman Joseph Brettell told Politico Some Guy told someone.

The Markey Witt crew, in town for new-lawmaker orientation, hasn’t crossed paths with Musgrave Benkerand the phone still hasn’t jingled. “No, she hasn’t called to concede,” Markey Witt campaign manager Anne Caprara told Politico Joe Mama told Longmont Advocate, “but we’re moving forward.”

Markey Witt shouldn’t feel singled out, though. It appears Musgrave’s Benker’s “ill manners” have a bipartisan spin. “Rumor has it she still — 14 5 days later — hasn’t even thanked her campaign staff,” Mullins someone reported.

Ward 2 Election analysis

Of all the races in the 2009 Longmont election, Ward 2 was the most contentious and hardest fought.  People outside the city were making comments like “Longmont is Ground Zero” when describing how this election could be a bellwether for state and national elections next year.  I contend that Ward 2 was more specifically Ground Zero within Ground Zero.  It lived up to its reputation for a knock down, all out brawl.  The results in the end though were fairly lopsided.

Incumbent Karen Benker faced off against Katie Witt.  In previous elections Ms. Benker received funding, in non-partisan Longmont elections, by the Democratic Party, be it at the county or city level.  She regularly wore her party politics on her sleeve, something fairly new in Longmont politics.  Along with three other members of council, known as the “Bloc of 4” were members Sean McCoy, Brian Hansen, and Sarah Levison.  It was a regular occasion to have them tout their leaders from Congress to the Presidency after the 2008 Election, in one case Mr. McCoy stumbling through a partial recital of President Obama‘s inaugural speech.  Problem is, they didn’t ride into office in 2007 with any strong mandate – only one won by a majority and Ms. Benker actually lost that year in her bid for Mayor.  They over-interpreted the mandate they thought they got, and overplayed their hand, which was quite heavy handed at times.

In their undeserved hubris, especially on the part of Ms. Benker and Mr. McCoy, they made enemies on a regular basis and woke up those they’d probably rather kept asleep and uninterested in local politics.  Again, they thought they were riding some kind of wave of voter approval, but 2007 has proven to be a “one trick pony”, a hiccup in Longmont elections, and the past two elections (Special Election of 2008 and the recent 2009 Election) clearly prove that point.  There was no “blue wave” as was bragged about, there was yet a blue rock thrown into a puddle, with no ripples.

After a 2008 defeat to State Senator Brandon Shaffer, Katie Witt decided early in 2009 to run for Longmont City Council Ward 2, and announced in March, which was fairly early by Longmont standards.  The odds were fairly stacked against her running against a popular (to her supporters) incumbent who had won re-election 4 years earlier.  Ms. Benker conceivably would once again have the Party behind her, most of the same donors who had contributed in her ’05 and ’07 campaigns, and the campaign machine and network of volunteers ready to take on any challenger.  The impression out there was that Katie Witt wasn’t to be taken seriously, including a sniping comment by Sean McCoy calling her a “council wannabe“.

Ms. Benker didn’t announce until late July, and Katie Witt used that time to knock on hundreds (which was eventually thousands) of doors and have volunteers hit up the rest within the ward with fliers.  The area of highest priority was Clover Basin, the voters of highest priority were not Republicans, but voters that were not affiliated with any party.  Unaffiliated voters are the highest percentage of voters in Longmont, followed by Democrats and Republicans, in that order.  The message that went out had to appeal to both sides of the spectrum because there’s no way of knowing which way an unaffiliated voter tends to lean – and with Longmont supposed to be non-partisan in local elections, this was an ideal way to campaign anyway.

Ironically, the precinct with the highest amount of unaffiliated voters in Ward 2 is smack dab in the middle of Clover Basin.  As is #4, #5, and #9 out of the 21 precincts within the ward.  Ms. Benker was trying to use Clover Basin as a campaign issue, naming as one of her main accomplishments the ending of the Clover Basin Fire District Tax.  Of course, anyone who paid attention to that process would know Ms. Benker was stretching the truth (to put it mildly) in this claim as that was not what the council voted on.  This was covered extensively on this website and was later used against her in a mailer.

How did Clover Basin vote?  The results there mirror the overall results almost exactly, basically a 60-40 split for Katie Witt.  Ms. Benker was planning on riding Clover Basin to victory, but 60% of the voters didn’t buy her story.

On Ms. Benkers home turf, Prospect, which is a precinct that also includes neighboring Creekside, Katie Witt beat Karen Benker by a 61-39 margin.  On Katie Witt’s home turf just north of Prospect, Witt got nearly 70% of the vote.  Many precincts that surround Main Street that have more Democrats than any other affiliation also went for Katie Witt.  In total, 19 of the 21 precincts in Ward 2 were won by Katie Witt (there are also 2 other precincts with a total of around 18 voters).  The area around Twin Peaks Golf Course went strongest for Witt, averaging over 73% in 2 precincts.

Bottom line was that Karen Benker’s negatives were too high and Katie Witt ran a clean and positive campaign.  There were negative mailers and robo-calls done against Benker, but did not come from nor were coordinated with the Witt campaign.  Frankly, I’m not sure they were even necessary.  At every turn Ms. Benker would make one mistake after another.  She had a lousy record to go on, acted spiteful and vindictive to anyone who didn’t agree with her, and tried to use the Election Committee and the Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act as her personal re-election tool and revenge machine.

She had volunteers who were witnessed placing Benker signs directly in front of Witt signs on private land where Witt had received permission but Benker had not.  Witt signs were repeatedly stolen, and these were not removed by Code Enforcement.  There were people directly connected with the Benker campaign who would personally attack Witt supporters on websites and letters to the Boulder Weekly and the Times-Call.  They gave the term “politics of personal destruction” a whole new meaning.  In defending her record, Benker stretched the truth about as far humanly possible, regardless of actual statements and votes.  

All it boils down to is that Ms. Benker was a lackluster candidate and ran an equally lackluster campaign.  Re-election was never a real possibility, nor was it deserved.

In the end, Katie Witt beat Karen Benker by over 1,500 votes out of roughly 7,000 total votes.  It wasn’t even close.  Karen Benker was the de facto leader of the “Bloc of 4” and was also Mayor Pro-TemI always said that if Benker was defeated it would send a shockwave through the city and surrounding areas, as she wielded great power and influence, and not just within Longmont’s borders.  And not always positive power or influence.

Big money didn’t defeat her.  A dirty campaign didn’t defeat her.  It was a combination of a superior candidate and campaign running against her, and Benker beating herself.  Simple as that.

24 reasons why Benker is Wrong for Longmont

The endless stream of lies, distractions, and half-truths from the Karen Benker campaign over the last few months is enough to make any normal head explode.  It’s really an amazing thing to watch; the spinning, bobbing, and weaving from Ms. Benker herself, and from her team of antagonizers who throw anything against the wall to see if it will stick.  The saddest are the ones who comment in the Times-Call annonymously and repeat the same drivel over and over, hoping fresh eyes may stumble upon it and actually believe it.  And then there’s the writers to the Open Forum and the Boulder Weekly – some of which I know, some I don’t – who just can’t stand that I get any ink at all.  And that I get any actual traction.  I never apologize for being effective, deal with it.
But there’s always one underlying tone:  they rarely challenge any of the facts I present, but instead just attack me.  So, to wrap it all up and put a nice little bow on it, please check out the links below.  If you’re still on the fence on what to think of Ms. Benker as a council member and candidate, you’ve just had too much Koolaide and are beyond help.  If you only buy half of the following, that’s still should be troubling enough. 
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5/19/09 Longmont Airport prairie dogs could cost city federal funding – Benkers involvement in the FAA/Airport/Prairie Dog Fiasco
6/8/09 City of Longmont may move lucrative ad buys from local paper –  Benker’s “Shop Local” campaign ends at the Times-Call’s door as she tries to remove ordinance printing from the local paper.
6/8/09 Longmont City Council vs. Longmont Times-Call  – The Benker Bloc sets all-time records for secret Executive Sessions, and the Times-Call sues them for it.
6/15/09  Council being dishonest about emails – Of all the council members, Benker is the least open with the required forwarding of city related emails.
7/1/09 Longmont city councilmember pledges whopping $66 to furloughed city employees  – Benker really shows some empathy to city employees she furloughs – NOT.
7/29/09 Longmont council member fought for city grant to her non-profit – Benker uses the power of her position to benefit H.O.P.E., skates away from investigation/prosecution, but still unethical.
8/3/09 Benker’s irresponsible “dying mall” comment – Benker’s true feelings of the mall escape at a Council meeting, bringing joy and excitement to mall tenants – NOT.
8/11/09 Benker’s thugs discuss strategy via email – Here’s the plan to get anyone who dares question Queen Karen.
8/26/09 Benker kneecaps public speakers – Benker can’t follow standard rules when she’s playing Mayor, and the public suffers for it.
9/16/09 Benker taking credit where none is due – This is about Clover Basin, and the repeated lie Ms. Benker and her blind followers have repeated over and over.  This tax was NOT ended in July like she says, period.
9/21/09 Secret meetings nothing new for Benker – Word of Open Meeting problems dating back to the ’90’s when Benker was on the RTD Board.
9/25/09 Profiles in incivility: Karen Benker – some of Benker’s mean and nasty side come out in emails she’d probably rather not have seen by the public.
9/29/09 Campaign Sign Warfare – The Benker Bots get out and place their signs in private land without permission and remove their competitors signs. 
10/1/09 Dueling in the Times-Call Open Forum – When Benker can’t argue the points, she attacks the messenger – just like her campaign team.
10/4/09 Benker decries, then engages in dirty politics – Benker is seen leaving a candidate forum with the supporter who attacks her opponent for her.
10/8/09 Complaints filed over political call, flier by Benker – After voting for the Election Committee and funding it’s lawyers, Benker uses it to strike back at opinions she doesn’t like.
10/11/09 Benker’s achilles heel: The Twin Peaks Mall – The sad history of Benker’s involvement in the failing Twin Peaks Mall.
10/13/09 Councilmembers, candidates, and citizens who stalk others – Benker and her supporters check out homes and workplaces of people they don’t like or agree with.
10/17/09 Benkers Clover Basin mistruth proven – The vote to end the Clover Basin fire tax finally happens, proving Benker and pals were lying every day up until that vote.
10/18/09 Boulder County D.A. letter over Benker’s Open Records issues – The Open Records issue the DA is still considering, but so far just sitting on.  This issue could be the worst of them all, and won’t go away after the election, regardless of the outcome.
10/18/09 Benker’s anti-LifeBridge involvement – After council voted her down 6-1, Benker undermined that vote by holding a petition signing event at her house.
10/18/09 Benker decries robo-calls, then engages in them – First she complains about them, then she does them herself.
10/27/09 Benker’s complaint costs city hundreds – Benker uses the Election Committee to collect $600 in fines, at the cost of at least $1,800 to taxpayers!
10/27/09 Benker calls for even higher utility bills – She asks about the failed and repeatedly voted down idea of “rounding up” utility bills.
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These are the FACTS and the numerous reasons why Ms. Benker not only deserves to lose this election mightily, but why there will probably be lingering legal issues long after this election, regardless of outcome.  She has been an unmitigated disaster for Longmont, has used people and committees to strike out at her detractors, and has been less than truthful under oath, on her website, and in the paper.  This election shouldn’t even be close, but if it is, that will be yet another issue worth looking into.  And it will be.

And even MORE free advertising

The “Defend Queen Bee Benker” Brigade are really pulling in overtime with their howling in the Times-Call and Boulder Weekly (see previous post)!  One guy, who I’ve never even heard of, and you probably haven’t either, said I called him a bigot!  Go ahead, read away on this site, see where I said that.  I’ll wait……
Didn’t find it did you?  Nope, these people are desperate.  And last I checked I’m not even running for City Council, but if they want to waste their time on me, well, ain’t too smart.  Go ahead, vote against me, although my hits just keep going up. Continue reading…

When they have nothing else, they lie

Well, seems that a contributor and donor of in-kind contributions for the Karen Benker campaign has just libeled me on the Boulder Weekly website.  I keep being reminded since I’m a public figure, I just have to get used to crap hurled at me from all directions regardless if it’s true or not.  Usually it’s the Times-Call who will run some half-baked letter from an equally half-baked Longmont citizen who spouts off over me, by name.  “Rules of the game” I’m reminded by them.
I don’t mind it most of the time, until it’s a flat out libelous lie.  Like this one.
(UPDATE: The fine folks at the Boulder Weekly have removed the false accusation below, and I sent my thanks to them.  I’d still like to know where this guy thinks he saw the following:) Continue reading…

Benker’s support melting away

The last campaign reports before Election Day were turned in Wednesday, and it isn’t looking good for Karen Benker.  Her financial support, which says a lot about her overall support in the community, continues to dry up.  She only raised $325 between 10/18 – 10/25.  By comparison, her opponent Katie Witt raised $1,555 in the same time frame.
Ms. Benker’s funds on hand with a week left in the campaign was a meager $340.  Ms. Witt’s: $5,419.

Ms. Benker’s total fundraising as of 10/25 came to $7,930.  Ms. Witt: $17,290.

The extent of Ms. Benker’s expenditures was a fairly forgettable ad in the Times-Call on Oct 24th.  I follow such things fairly closely, and I had to go find it to remember what it said, and if we forgot, it probably didn’t even make it on the radar of voters who don’t pay a lot of attention to the campaign.  But this ad was full of the usual falsehoods:

  1. Only candidate that signed the laughable civil campaign pledge.  She’s kept this pledge by filing one complaint after another with the Election Committee and using it as her free campaign tool.  She’s only shown herself to be vindictive, spiteful, and a crybaby.
  2. You are a great member of council, city is better because of you” or some such nonsense.  Yes, it’s terrific, just look at all the failure and blight just in her ward alone.
  3. Brandon Shaffer’s worthless endorsement, big woop.
  4. “..woman of high integrity..hard work on Clover Basin”  This is from someone who sends out fawning Benker emails to her neighbors in Clover Basin.  Tip: they don’t all agree with you, well, the ones that know the facts of how Ms. Benker about drove a stake into this neighborhoods heart with her ill advised “put it on the ballot” idea.  Integrity?  Please, see #1 again.

Exploding hits” to a mediocre website is nothing to crow about.  I hope she’s not paying too much for that service, it’s pretty poorly designed, and is just a whine-fest of what all those nasty people have been saying about her – nevermind it’s all true.  And what’s with having weird characters (Ø’s and ü’s) for bullet points?  People know where to get the “real facts”, and where to read fairy tales.

I guess the phone banks for her are in action, a whole 2 or 3 people, and I’m sure we’ll see the expenditure somewhere for the list they surely had to buy – but haven’t yet.  Odd.  Or are they using an old list filled with all those thousands of ballots that have been returned as “undeliverable“.  Which is a fitting term for this candidate.

2007 Progressive experiment has failed

Here is my Guest editorial that ran in the Tuesday October 27, 2009 Times-Call.  I didn’t title this piece, but they did:
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Vote Out The Progressives
The “2007 Progressive Experiment” in Longmont has failed.  At least it’s been entertaining to watch and write about, but to the detriment of the city as a whole.  We can’t say we didn’t give it a try, but this regressive Progressive majority on city council has proven to be a real loser of an idea and voters need to undo the mistake of 2007.To refresh memories, in 2007 Longmont had a block of candidates take over the majority of city council.  This majority includes Sean McCoy, Brian Hansen, Sarah Levison, and Karen Benker – who actually was soundly defeated in her quest for Mayor, but unfortunately remained in office.  Mr. Hansen and Ms. Levison squeaked in with less than a majority and mostly due to third candidates who split the vote.  Mr. McCoy won by a majority, but Ms. Benker lost by a majority.Even to the bloc’s most strident supporters, they must agree these have been two very divisive and controversial years.  They have also been two very unproductive years rife with costly lawsuits, dwindling tax revenues, and furloughed city employees.  Our council meetings are often 4 hour marathons that end with bickering and indecision.  Procrastination is their credo.

Therefore, a clean sweep and removal of all council members in office prior to 2008 needs to occur.  Mary Blue is retiring, which is a shame as she’s been an exception and an exemplary representative.  Gabe Santo’s joined the council in January 2008 and has often been the sole dissenting vote on some of the bloc’s more ridiculous maneuvers – and deserves to be retained in his at-large seat.

Unfortunately, Council members McCoy, Hansen, and Levison are not up for re-election.  But they can be dealt with in 2 years, or sooner via recall.  Candidates Fissinger, Benker, and Van Dusen are more of the same of the failed regressive Progressive majority we now find ourselves saddled with.  Voters should learn from past mistakes and not repeat them with these candidates.

Mayor Lange, who I respect, admire, and have always supported and voted for in every race he’s even run, has tilted one too many times in favor of this failed bloc.  The denied motion and second (from Santos and Blue, respectively) to end the losing battle with Firestone and LifeBridge was the straw that broke the camels back for me and many other citizens.  When Firestone came to Longmont with an offer of the land that would meet Longmont’s request for this so-called buffer, which in reality is a red herring that doesn’t now nor will ever exist, Mayor Lange and this council turned them away, proving to me this was nothing more than an expensive turf war and an attempt to financially bleed Firestone and LifeBridge.  I’m not a member of that church or a resident of Firestone, but this act was appalling.

Unlike other council members who have been downright rude to me in the presence of my children, Mayor Lange has indelibly left a positive impression on one of my sons to which we are eternally grateful.  While I can’t support him in this race for the other reasons above, I will also not engage in mudslinging or negative attacks that might benefit his opponent, Bryan Baum, who I support.

The same cannot be said for Karen Benker.  Some cities have elected donkeys, dogs, or hoboes to city council.  I would back such a candidate in opposition to Ms. Benker.  Alright, my tongue is slightly planted “in cheek” with that comment, but the actual sentiment is not too far off.  Ms. Benker is basically the leader of the bloc, and as such, sets the tone for the bitter divisiveness the bloc embodies.  A vote for her is a vote for the failed last two years.  About the only thing Ms. Benker has on Katie Witt is her so-called experience.  But this experience has not resulted in a better outcome for the citizens of Longmont.

I would also argue Ms. Benker’s “experience” when she was Ms. Witt’s age was probably similar to Ms. Witt’s now.  Everybody has to start somewhere.  Incumbency and a self-inflated resume shouldn’t be the main deciding factor in who’s more fit to serve.  Sometimes a fresh outlook and differing life experiences breathe new life into an otherwise stale and stagnant situation.  Unfortunately, this current council majority is worse than stagnation, it’s actually regressing.

So consider the past and the future when you cast your vote, and not some selfish allegiance of what you think a candidate is or isn’t.  And there’s really no good reason not to vote, please exercise this right.

Benker calls for even higher fees?!

Sometimes I wonder if Karen Benker wants to lose this election.  Maybe she has plans for running for some other office in 2010.  Because with still a lot of ballots not yet sent in, a week to go before Election Day, and with a financially struggling constituency, why would anyone in their right mind propose a tax increase?  A significant one at that.  Oh, I know, it’s not a tax, but a fee.  Whatever. Continue reading…