Disrespect From The Podium

At the July 29th Longmont City Council meeting, the issue of putting Police and Firefighter unionization on the ballot was the hot issue. There’s lots to talk about (and lots of audio to pull from this meeting for my next podcast), but I’ll just hit a couple initially.

I watched the entire thing, there were lots of speakers, from both sides. Before I go much further, I’ll remind people I was one of the PD/FD’s biggest supporters for their 2004 drive. My old Wrongmont link is still on their website to this day. I’ve been a union member in open and closed shops for over 27 years, so save the history lesson and emotional speeches. Now, as they say, with all that being said…

I thought each side made very good points, some spoke better than others. I could almost say I feel strongly both ways on this issue, not something I normally say, and probably won’t advocate either way. Make up your own minds.

But I will say the most compelling and convincing presentation was by Police Chief Mike Butler. It was mostly for nothing as it appeared those that voted in favor of the union had made up their minds long before he made his statements. But there was one speaker for the union side who got my attention the most, FOP President Stephen Shulz. He spoke fairly eloquently and had a good command of his organizations positions. But he blew it at one point, to me anyway, with his obvious lack of respect for an elected official, Councilmember Gabe Santos.

The question was asked why now, why again, after the union vote defeat in 2004. Mr. Shulz brought up Mr. Santos’ defeat in the November election, why did/should he run again? There are so many differences in these two scenarios, not to mention the total unprofessional behavior of a city employee towards a city policy maker. First off, Mr. Santos lost by a 46% to 41% margin, not a majority win by Sarah Levison. The unionization vote of 2004 lost by a 55% to 44% margin, much to my chagrin. Not a landslide, but a fairly clear majority.

Secondly, what did Mr. Santos’ two campaigns cost the city? Candidates self fund their campaigns, either from their own accounts or from contributors. In both elections, the city had to fill vacant positions, it wasn’t optional. In the union’s case, they will be the only Longmont related issue on the ballot (said at the City Council meeting), it is optional, and will cost the city about $75,000. I don’t recall Mr. Santos’, or any candidate, demanding not only to be put on the ballot, but also have the city pick up the tab. But that’s what the FOP is asking for. I probably wouldn’t have brought that up, except for this unnecessary cheap shot during the council meeting.

It showed an arrogance, and an impression that the needed four votes were in the bag. Along those same lines, some councilmembers felt outraged that the opinion was floated that they were “bought off” for this vote, but I’ll save that for another time.

For now, someone needs to explain that if the FOP is willing to show that kind of attitude BEFORE there even is a bargaining contract, BEFORE the voters even have a say, why would any reasonable person believe that they won’t be even worse in negotiations IF/WHEN they achieve collective bargaining? I don’t like painting the FOP with this broad brush, and think they have some valid points, but Mr. Shulz repeatedly said he spoke for the FOP. Regardless if they won tonight, this behavior won’t score well with the voters.

Let Confusion Reign

There was a proposed agreement to simplify the Hwy 119 corridor with adequate access points and signal spacing. It had nothing to do with urban sprawl, or as Longmont City Councilman Sean McCoy calls it “green field sprawl”. Watch the video below and see how it’s twisted and convoluted, if you can follow.

If you can make it through the stammering, you’re probably asking how does signal spacing and access points encourage “green field sprawl” exactly? And the Weld County Commissioners are in the business of growing a city (Longmont) beyond what Mr. McCoy believes it can handle? He threw out the “exceptional benefit” a couple of times, taking lessons from Ms. Levison? Again though, this isn’t a land grab, so what’s the point with this term? Then he brings up the never incorporated town of Freedom “in some peoples understanding” as he put it, what some people, like two?
And mentioning Freedom, an idea hatched to put the brakes on the Union Lifebridge development, he gives yet another indirect backhand to this church and its members.

Then he said we need to spend more time on urban renewal. What’s the largest urban renewal project that’s been in the news for the last few months? Twin Peaks Mall, a project he has continually voted against. So there’s some talking out of both sides of the mouth there.

But he’s not alone on this city council when it comes to applying a double standard when it comes to Lifebridge and the Mall.
…to be continued.

You’re Building What Where?

There was a front page article in the Daily Times-Call on Sunday June 29, 2008 entitled ” Landowners in Limbo” which tells the story about land and business owners around the area where the FasTracks station is supposed to be built.

I watched with interest the June 3, 2008 Longmont City Council when they talked about this subject. When I saw the map on the screen, it sure looked like the station’s parking lot was located where Budget Home Center currently sits. If you were like me, as you watched this, you probably assumed that some deal had already been discussed and that the land owners were aware of this plan.

Apparently, according to this article, they weren’t.

At about the 55 minute mark of the June 3rd meeting video, you can see the concepts for this area. This information was in a council packet at the time of this meeting, but is no longer part of the PDF on the city’s site. The agenda itself can be found at http://www.ci.longmont.co.us/city_council/agendas/2008/060308.htm

Councilman Brian Hansen did ask about the smaller property owners, to which the answer was that they could pool together and be part of the larger development, but ” they haven’t explored in any detail” this idea – and it sounds like they may not have shared this idea with the land owners either.

I’ve frequented Budget Home Center quite a bit over the years, and figured that the competition from Home Depot, Lowes, and Ace Hardware was just too much for them, and they might fade away for the purposes of this light rail station. According to Budget’s owner Butch Vernon, that is not the case. Besides not hearing anything from RTD, he’s hoping they will relocate his business or compensate him so he can relocate it himself.

Unfortunately, a spokesperson for RTD said they do use eminent domain and will resort to condemnation if no agreement can be made with the land owner. In other words, they’ll just take it if they want it.

Is that what the voters in Longmont really voted for? Light rail at any cost, regardless of the human and business debris it leaves behind? All you anti-big box store (like Home Depot) types who defend smaller local businesses (like Budget Home Center), where are you on this one? (I hear crickets, and hypocrites)

What is with this trend of trampling all over property owners rights in Longmont? Some examples: the attempt to take Emery Street to the detriment of surrounding property owners. The fiasco with Lifebridge and other property owners near Union Reservoir, stalling into oblivion plans to work their own property. George Marxmiller and the city’s virtual taking of some of his property and denial of release of his liability, making him risk everything. The property owners of the Twin Peaks Mall area, and the hoops they’re being required to jump through. And now this.

And who’s making all this noise and doing all this meddling? Little tyrants running around with probably little to not much property of their own, since they probably can’t afford to live in their own little nirvana to the southwest? So if they’re going to be miserable settling for Longmont, the rest of us have to share in their misery? The same types who want to mold Longmont into something other than what it is, and not something better. Some were even elected!

This is what you get when you just let bureaucrats, and their fawning citizen apologists, run roughshod unchecked and not held accountable. Not to worry, what are the odds of this happening to, or affecting, you? Probably higher than you think.

City Council Cheap Shots

At the May 27, 2008 Longmont City Council Meeting, Councilmember Sean McCoy took a couple of swipes at Lifebridge Christian Church (without saying their name). Here is the YouTube video, which can also be found at the Longmont Advocate YouTube Channel:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffiExb7rzYk

He mentions a ” 40 year vesting“. The previous City Council approved 3/5/15 year vesting for residential, commercial, and civic/religious respectively. Or are new councilmembers not only throwing away past decisions, but ignorant of them as well?

He mentioned ” height restrictions” requests from a different church requesting to be annexed into Longmont. Lifebridge didn’t ask for height restrictions, but height exemptions, slight difference. And guess what they just got from Firestone? An exemption higher than what Longmont had approved during those negotiations. This is but the first example of what many of us were warning would happen if Longmont didn’t move forward with the annexation – looser standards, and of course less permit fee’s, and property and sales taxes.

The issue of height restrictions was something the anti-annexers were saying, but Mr. McCoy reminded us this current council had nothing to do with Lifebridge pulling out, yet he’s echoing these people, and of course his pre-election unfavorable comments about this annexation.

He mentioned ” low income housing exemptions” and ” million dollar homes“. The master plan calls for three housing districts; one primarily for seniors consisting of detached and attached homes, plus duplexes and triplexes; another area of general single-family residential homes, and a third district (on the north side of site) of custom homes. It is conceivable some of the custom homes could cost $1 million or more, but this is a very small percentage of available housing planned for Union. By contrast, Lifebridge will fully comply with the city standard of 10% low income affordable housing with no special exemption. So his “million dollar homes” is an obvious intentional exaggeration to anyone who looks at the actual plan.

He mentioned ” huge retail complex“,another gross exaggeration. He makes it sound as if it’ll be Harvest Junction East when there’s clearly no room for such an endeavor. Of course there will be some shops, but not this big-box haven he makes it out to be.

He wanted to make sure ” we were all onboard“, well, yeah, some people are, on a ship of fools.

Inappropriate Conduct

At the May 13, 2008 Longmont City Council Meeting, there was a snafu during the Public Invited To Be Heard portion. For some reason, one of the speakers who signed up to speak, Richard Yale, was not called up at the appropriate time. To his credit, Mayor Lange, once made aware of this mistake, stopped the council meeting and re-opened Public Invited to correct this, and Mr. Yale had his turn to speak.

During Public Invited, people can speak to just about anything they wish, including green cheese on the moon if they like. Recent council meetings have been long, and often entire agenda items are postponed. While it is best to speak to a public hearing item during that hearing, given the recent nature of meetings, and the possibility people have lives and can’t stick around all night, there is nothing stopping someone from speaking on an upcoming public hearing item during Public Invited.

In this situation though, one mistake was already made in regards to Mr. Yale’s ability to address City Council. But when he did speak he clearly stated he was in favor of the public hearing items they were to discuss later, and wanted to address a different issue. The parcel of land he spoke to was not the same as the land that was part of the public hearing to be held later. He made it fairly clear he was talking about the land near Weld County Roads 5 and 26, which he read into the record the Weld County Commissioners letter talking specifically about this land and this annexation. There is a point to this, read on.

How often after Public Invited do you hear a councilmember reference the speaker? Not very often. It’s rarer still to hear City Attorney Clay Douglas do it. But immediately after Mr. Yale spoke, Mr. Douglas laughed a little and said: ” Your rules and procedures say that you talk at public invited to be heard on any item that’s not scheduled for a public hearing. And the last speaker basically just talked about something scheduled for a public hearing. A better time to do that would be when the public hearing begins.” Mayor Lange responded with “you’re right” or “you’re correct”. Well, no, he isn’t.

If Mr. Douglas can’t tell the difference between the land that was part of the public hearing (that’s south of Hwy 119), and the land Mr. Yale spoke of and the Weld County Commissioners wrote the city about (that’s north of Hwy 119), well, that would explain the needless stalemate the city is in with Firestone, Lifebridge, and Weld County. And like I said, Mr. Yale made the effort to say he was in support of the vote they were about to take, and took. I didn’t hear Mr. Douglas complain about 5 speeches in one night about prairie dogs (by the same person), why would this be any different? Well, there is a reason.

Mr. Yale was one of the ones who pointed out Mr. Douglas’s inappropriate behavior with the anti-Lifebridge annexation folks at a recent Firestone Board of Trustee‘s meeting, and I’m pretty sure Mr. Douglas is aware of this. But he picked the wrong time and the wrong issue to get some payback. How often do you see someone from City Council or Staff publicly try to humiliate a citizen during a televised council meeting? Don’t just take my word for it, it’s on their website if you want to witness it for yourself at http://209.128.123.166/PPPortal/agenda/webcast.aspx .

I wrote the City Clerk about this and asked that it be forwarded on to Mr. Douglas for a public apology to Mr. Yale. I wasn’t asked to do this; it’s just the right thing to do. And it’s a subtle reminder of who he works for, which isn’t some fringe activist group (who don’t all live in Longmont). He serves at the pleasure of the City Council that Longmont citizens like Mr. Yale elect in or out of office.

LA005: Marxmiller, Butterball, and Union Annexation petition

LA-w-ChrisMay 11, 2008 Show

Longmont: Take The Deal

OPEN LETTER TO MAYOR LANGE AND LONGMONT CITY COUNCIL

For the record, I have no stake whatsoever in the following. I am not a landowner near this property, I am not a member of Lifebridge, nor do I speak for them or have ever been asked to. The proposal by Firestone’s Mayor Chad Auer in reference to Lifebridge Christian Church’s properties should be seriously considered and accepted without delay.

We’ve all been entertained by the antics for the last few months by some of your ” surrogate agitators and aggressors“, but the time for stalling and playing games is over. You have a decision to make and you can’t procrastinate any longer. This is what you were elected to do; take input and make policy. This deal is probably the absolute best you’re going to get; to pass on it would be foolish.

Six of the current seven councilmembers were involved in the recent elections of November and January. When you consider what “majority” you think you’re representing, keep in mind only three of you actually won with a majority ( Lange, McCoy, and Santos), one of you lost by a majority ( Benker in the mayors race) and the other two got in with less than a majority ( Hansen and Levison). Your decision, one way or the other, will bring out some citizens with pitchforks, figuratively, and you need to figure out which ones you’re willing to anger. Whatever political future you think you might have hangs in the balance, because this decision will affect Longmont for decades.

Personally, I think the landowners are giving away too much in this deal. They’ve been the target of slanderous and libelous attacks by some mouthpieces of certain councilmembers. These councilmembers and their attack dogs should be nervous about the recent Open Records request. There are limits to freedom of speech, and I’m willing to bet there are some shady backroom conversations certain people and councilmembers would rather keep out of the public eye. It’s probably too late for that, and I believe that if Longmont doesn’t take this deal, this so-called ” massive” open records request will be followed by a ” massive” lawsuit that Longmont can not afford, and will ultimately lose. In that scenario, all of us taxpayers are the losers.

The anti-annexation crowd didn’t want Lifebridge annexed into Longmont, this offer addresses that, and this group gets their wish. Longmont officials wanted a buffer; this offer addresses that as well. The only hitch is that Longmont has to come up with the money to buy this land as open space. None of you thought this would come for free, did you? This is prime real estate on Hwy 119, another reason I believe the landowners are giving away too much in this deal.

Longmont isn’t and hasn’t been dealing from a position of strength. It really doesn’t hold any cards and stand to lose much. The cute game of de-annexing and re-annexing, including certain roads with the goal of cutting off access to the landowners’ property, was a dirty trick and will cost the city at the county, state, and court levels if you allow this charade to continue. As strategies go, that was a bad move, and now it’s just about checkmate.

We all know some of you ran on, and had the backing of the anti-annexation movement. It’s become clearly evident that they were never just “anti-annexation” or looking out for what was “in it” for Longmont. They’ve followed and harassed the landowners from one city to another, then on to the county level, and have included in their attacks members of a church that has been part of this community for a century. This group has made it clear this church is no longer welcomed here, and the silence by some on council on this attack is tantamount to approval of this despicable behavior. Behavior, that by and large is by only a handful of people, and a small minority who signed the petition (which less than half voted for the anti-annexation candidate in January), yet council gives them the illusion that they are an actual majority of Longmont citizens, which they don’t come close to actually being.

My guess is that your attorneys and staff will suggest you accept this offer, regardless if you can afford the land in question or not. The impending lawsuit could be much more expensive in the long run, with no open space to show for it in the end, unlike with this offer. Some of you need to publicly divorce and disassociate yourselves with the vocal minority who has brought Longmont to this sad and unfortunate position. And do it quickly, you’ve stalled enough.

Cordially,
Chris Rodriguez

Can of Worms

At the April 29, 2008 Longmont City Council meeting, at the late, nearly eleven o’clock hour, something interesting happened. Quite often, the most interesting things happen during “Council Comments” at the end of every meeting, it’s worth Tivo’ing.

In the Times-Call of the same date, there was a story about Lifebridge Church. It, according to the paper, ” submitted amassive open records request to the city, asking for public documents spanning 20 years.” So it sounds as if the attorneys of Lifebridge delivered a mountain of paper (massive) for this request! Oh, the tree’s who paid with their lives, er, leaves. I’m sure it was meant that the result of this request will be ” massive“.

At the City Council meeting, Councilmember Karen Benker asked City Attorney Clay Douglas about this and it turned into a fairly long discussion covering emails, phone calls, and the recording and reporting of these. Some of you may not have been aware, but every correspondence you send to city council, and presumably city staff, is of the open record variety. And, when councilmembers receive these, they are to forward them on to city staff for retention.

I got the strong impression this hasn’t been followed by some on council. And there seemed to be concern about “personal” emails, and when items are confidential and when they aren’t. It sounds like very little is private when it comes to just about any correspondence between constituents and their city council members. If the constituent states that it is confidential, there could be some coverage there. But it doesn’t go the other way, that is, from the councilmember to the constituent, according to Mr. Douglas.

Apparently, the proper way for a councilmember to respond to an email is for them to CC the reply to the appropriate city staff email address so they get a copy of the original email and the response. I guess if they don’t reply, they should just forward the email on, but that wasn’t made clear. And it was also implied that if the councilmember replies and forwards the reply on, it must include the original email from the constituent or the Open Records Act was not properly followed.

I email councilmembers from time to time, and not to “fish” for a violation of this act, but for valid questions. I’m sure some of you do as well. Just for fun, in your replies from council, check the “From” area to see if anyone is in the CC list. It’s possible it was a blind CC, but why would a councilmember want to hide the fact they followed procedure, and the law for that matter?

The question of recording telephone conversations came up, and Mr. Douglas said ” any communication“, which might be construed as including telephone calls. But something else he said here got my attention: ” A telephone conversation among councilmembers if it involves the requisite three members or majority can become an open meeting, and affording the public access to that can pose its own challenges.” Catch that?

To me, that says if there is a conference call between 3 or more members, that we the public can and should have access to that conversation. My question is does that apply to emails sent between councilmembers to more than one other councilmember? And, how about get-togethers outside of council meetings that include 3 or more councilmembers? Especially if they discuss city business?

This could get interesting, and I doubt Lifebridge was aware of what that request has and could evolve in to. I’ve done requests of city records before, usually airport related issues, and have always found the City Clerks Office more than helpful in this area. I hope they aren’t about to get swamped.

LA003: ReCreate ’68, Lunatic Fringe, and Firestone’s Union annexations

April 27, 2008 Show
1st segment
Intro music Fuzz by Lords of Fuzz
www.longmontadvocate.com / email subscriptions

 

Continue reading…

More Half Truths and Untruths

I guess the anti-Lifebridge annexation crowd is of the belief if you lie enough, often enough, that the spun twisted perception will become everyone else’s reality.

The latest example is a letter that ran in the Times-Call. In it the writer made it sound as if because of the former Firestone officials move to annex Lifebridge and Fairview land they were “voted out of office.” Ever heard of term limits? They couldn’t have lost because they couldn’t have run for re-election. And the other board member retired and moved out of state. This is surely to be twisted into that she was shamed out of office and had to run for the hills.

This letter brought up the robo-calls made to some Longmont residents, but failed to mention the mass mailer done with the name of the main anti-Lifebridge group on it that was much more negative and the mass email that went out from more or less the same people. All those people who spoke at City Council who were “incited” seemed to all come from the anti-Lifebridge side. So who incited anger?

The editorial from Weld County officials was also mentioned in this letter, saying they ” pointedly urged Longmont to reconsider” the Union annexation. Let me quote the FIRST sentence of that editorial: ” It matters to Weld County not one nickel whether the Lifebridge Christian Church’s future campus on Colo. Highway 119 is sited in unincorporated Weld County or within Longmont‘s city limits.” And just to further drive the point home, the LAST sentence was: ” Again, it matters not a nickel to Weld County but appears to be a lost opportunity for Longmont.” Yes, I could see how those two quotes could be misconstrued as them urging Longmont to annex, if I were a heavy drinker or drug user.

The last great and continuing lie is the financial aspect they keep regurgitating, this unsubstantiated claim that 80-90% of the land to be annexed would be tax exempt. This one has been repeated so often I’m fairly confident they are starting to truly believe it. Problem is, by their own admission and chagrin, they were unhappy that Lifebridge wasn’t more forthcoming in these actual numbers. So what to do? Make some up! There’s no proof of this inflated tax-exempt claim of theirs.

This all leads to the obvious question: How many of these half truths or outright lies were told to get their petition signed by about 6,000 people? I heard that one of their lines was ” We just want people to have the chance to be able to vote whether or not to annex this land, we aren’t against the church“. If that was so, which of course it’s not, why are they going to great pains, including this mass-mailer to Firestone residents, to continue to block not only the Lifebridge annexation into another city, but also 4C’s other property at Fairview?

I’ve stopped counting how many stories I’ve heard first and second hand about people feeling deceived into signing that petition. To that all I can say is pay a little more attention next time and do your homework. Yeah, I know, you’d rather just be able to trust people that appear to be concerned citizens without an agenda. I know some of you, and more every day, are realizing that just wasn’t the case here.