GUEST EDITORIAL: Rich Yale on City Council

From time to time I’ll run a letter submitted to me when the author asks that it be, or approves of it. I try to run things that are fairly unique and not rehashes of other peoples writings locally or nationally. This next letter fits that bill, whether you agree with it or not. I’m also a believer in “if someone has something better to say, and a better way of saying it, why copy or alter it?”

With that in mind…

Amoral opportunity on City Council exploited by 4 Continue reading…

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…

Having It Both Ways

If you’re like me, you’re probably getting tired of people blowing hot air out of both sides of their mouth. Here’s an extreme example: ” I don’t mean to offend, but you’re a scum sucking pig“. Oh, no, they didn’t mean to offend, right. Or, here’s a good one: ” I really support the troops, don’t question that, but all of their commanders are corrupt and/or clueless, and let’s go see that film that portrays those troops as raping and murdering thugs, but I still support them.” Guess you can fool some of the people some of the time.

Getting closer to home, we have this “Megachurch” situation, as it’s being called now. The rest of us know it as Lifebridge’s Union Annexation. There will be a special election for it in late January ’08, the question is should it or shouldn’t it be annexed as part of Longmont. The anti-annexation crowd (they don’t like being called ” anti-Lifebridge“, a ” cabal“, or who knows what else) is trying a new approach, but repeatedly stating they aren’t condemning church members, nor attacking them. Uh huh.

Usually right before or after these disclaimers they go right on ripping into those they disagree with. Maybe we need a trip down memory lane to see what this anti-Lifebridge cabal (oops) has let slip out from some of their members. Some of which you probably haven’t seen or heard, and wish you never had.

Even though I think I’ve made it pretty clear I’m in no way affiliated with Lifebridge, the assumptions and attacks on my unstated religious affiliation began. When that went nowhere, it was on to my ethnicity. Let’s see, since my ” last name is Rodriguez” I must be either ” running one of those “landscaping” businesses using a bunch of illegals for labor” or my ” brother is in home building” or I need to get a ” job washing dishes“. They also remind me ” Colorado is built on slave labor from Mexico friend – don’t push it“. Wow, they put me in my place.

I got a nice chuckle when one of their leaders (another one, Richard Juday, is running for city council by the way) out of the blue claimed he was ” born again“. Yet there was no shortage of comics and comments fairly derogatory towards people of faith. But the “born again” part gives him “street cred”, I guess, to rip on everyone else. Hypocrite is overused, how about … “wrong end of a horse”?

Speaking of horses, I don’t really have one in this race, so I am not offended if I offended anyone. I’m also not running for anything, or have multiple websites trying to derail something (Lifebridge), or ran a petition drive secretly videotaping those that signed. OOPS, you signers not know that? Ah, but don’t worry, they told you they are just normal, everyday people, JUST LIKE YOU, probably you’re neighbors, remember? If those are your kind of people, you belong together; you should support them and their candidates. Here’s a pat on the head…and a SUCKER.

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.

Fair Access For All

A local subject near and dear to my heart is access to local government, as written a few months back here, and in appearances before city council. My main beef was the reduction in access with restrictions put on speakers during “public invited to be heard”. So you’d think I’d be ecstatic about council member (currently running for Mayor) Karen Benker‘s comments in a story titled ” City needs to listen more” with quotes like “I think government hasn’t been listening like it should.” “Sometimes it’s a matter of respect, listening to folks…” Well, you’d be wrong. Here’s why.

I was somewhat a regular at city council meetings, not always speaking, but occasionally. If someone spoke to my issue in a coherent way, I didn’t bother getting up as to not waste anyone’s time. I made phone calls and sent emails, and while I always acknowledge that these people had lives outside of council, I was usually responded to with the same respect I showed them. Then things started to change, and while I had my suspicions why, I was never quite sure until recently when an unnamed source within the city verified my suspicions.

As I suspected in an earlier piece, it was our local cabal that floats from action to action that brought on the change in policy. They’d go on and on for an hour or so, repeating themselves, tying up meetings, and shutting the rest of us out of our access to our representatives. Sure, they’ll cry their ” freedom of speech“, but what about ours? Does theirs rate higher or something? I think not.

You pick the topic: Walmart, anti-growth, Walmart, Lifebridge Annexation, and of course, Walmart. And usually they’d be on the losing side come vote time, as would Ms. Benker. That’s no coincidence; this same group is backing Ms. Benker for Mayor, as well as candidates Levison, Hansen, and McCoy, the “block” of candidates sharing ad space you may have heard of. So what’s the answer to being on the losing side of votes? Shut down meetings with these tactics. Very democratic, not.

I’m not asking for less access or speech for anyone, just equal and reasonable access without some ulterior motive. Since it appears Ms. Benker is the undeclared leader of the above mentioned group (recently referred to as her “noisy supporters”), there’s no way I could ever consider voting for her or the others above if they share this twisted version of representative government.

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.

GUEST EDITORIAL

I recently received the following submission from a longtime follower of this site, Rich Yale. Over the years Rich has been a regular in the Open Forum section of the Times-Call and has always had something interesting to send my way. Here’s his latest, enjoy.

The 2007 Campaign by Karen Benker for Mayor of Longmont offers a fake cure for her phony charge Council “rubber-stamps” development applications. Rights serve as rules of interaction between people and Government, and as such, they place restraints and obligations upon the actions of collective Council actions as well as upon groups including Benker’s noisy minority. Continue reading…

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.