Longmont’s supposedly fair campaign act

How often do you see quality videos for candidates or issues right here in Longmont? (Not counting craptastic anti-religious rantings, which of course are not quality). Well, here’s one for a certain city councilman who’s up for re-election. Enjoy.

As the video says, Produced by Longmont Advocate and not authorized by any candidate or candidates committee IAW LFCPA Pg 3.” What’s that? That’s the new Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act (IAW means In accordance with), to some meant to even the playing field, but in reality it complicates things so much that your average citizen will just avoid doing anything related to elections, including and most importantly excercising their Freedom of Speech. That includes donating how ever much money you like, within reason, but who defines “reasonable”?

But as you know, I write opinion and commentary, here and several other places including in print in the Times-Call and YourHub (Denver Post). I also did podcasts, or audio commentary, and lately commentary through videos. I’ve been doing this for several years, not just around election time. But back to this LFCPA Pg 3, it talks about “electioneering“, and more importantly what shall not be considered an “electioneering communication“:

1. Any news articles, editorial endorsements, opinion or commentary writings, including all electronic communication, or letters to the editor printed in a newspaper, magazine or other periodical not owned or controlled by a candidate, or agent of a candidate committee, issue committee or political committee;
2. Any endorsements or opinions aired by any broadcast facility, including cable or satellite not owned or controlled by a candidate or agent of a candidate committee, issue committee or political committee; or
3. Any communication by persons made in the regular course and scope of their business or any communication made by a membership organization solely to members of such organization and their families. (emphasis added)

I think that about covers me, as I’m not owned or controlled by anyone, nor am I an agent for anyone or anything – except the excercising of free speech. I also didn’t spend any money making this and future videos, or got paid to do it. I don’t have to pay to distribute these writings, audio or video, but I may play along with this silly “indicia” the city has instituted – which is sort of like a trademark signifying you’ve registered with the City Clerk. But I think that’s geared more towards 527’s, which I’m not. But you never know, I may want to make my own mailers, which will cost money.

Go read the new ordinance, see if it will make you want to participate more in the process, or less. My guess is less, which is exactly how incumbents want it to be. Better yet, test it in court, I’m sure someone will sooner or later.

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.

Which “Agitators and Aggressors”?

At the 3/25/08 Longmont City Council meeting, Sean McCoy, in his recurring role as appointed insulter, took aim this time at a website. You can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNslIi6DAM4


He called them ” surrogate agitators and aggressors“, and thanked the Longmont Police for showing up to the meeting, apparently for ” his and his family’s protection.” Would this be the same Longmont Police that Mr. McCoy accepted a $1,000 donation and Times-Call advertisement from, and are now pushing to make it so they can never donate to a campaign in Longmont again? Might they have been there because of reports of a regular attendee carrying a good size knife on him at council meetings? Did this genius know that? I’m betting not.

But since Mr. McCoy is accusing people exercising their Freedom Of Speech, which include phone or “robo-calls”, with terms like this, and feels the need for police protection for these robo-calls, I’d like to ask him for some consistency.

There were emails sent out that said a similar thing as these robo-calls, ” you need to come to tonight’s meeting“. These were sent by members of Progress Now Action, and while it clearly has an anti-Lifebridge tone, here’s the most hilarious part: Some were sent to current Lifebridge members! In some cases multiple emails sent to separate accounts of the same member! Talk about utter stupidity.

And here it is…
—————————————————————————————————-
Subject: FW: Your support is needed at a critical time for Longmont
Date: 3/25/2008 1:29:55 P.M. Mountain Daylight Time
From: info@progressnowaction.org
Reply To: jen@progressnowaction.org

XXXX,
Kaye Fissinger, a ProgressNow member in Longmont, asked me to forward you an urgent update on the LifeBridge/4C Development. I’ve forwarded her email below.

To: Jen Caltrider
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2008
From: Kaye Fissinger
Subject: URGENT – We need Longmont residents to attend the City Council meeting TONIGHT

Fellow Longmont Residents,

Earlier this year Longmont residents banded together to prevent a proposed annexation by the LifeBridge/4C Development Corporation. The proposed annexation would have cost Longmont residents thousands in taxpayer dollars every year.

Now, LifeBridge is at it again. This time they’re trying to get the land for their development annexed through the City of Firestone.

The Longmont City Council is poised to vote for annexation of three pieces of open space on our Weld County border for use as open space. If Longmont annexes this open space land, we will effectively prevent Firestone from annexing the LifeBridge development and protect wildlife habitat.

I want to invite other Longmont residents to join me at the LongmontCity Council meeting tonight to make sure the City Council knows that Longmont residents want this open space annexed.

The City Council meeting starts at 7:00 pm at City Hall, 350 Kimbark Street in Longmont.

Last night, Longmont residents were subjected to robo calls designed to further LifeBridge’s cause. The message urged residents to keep the City Council from annexing the property in question. So, we expect LifeBridge supporters to turn out in force and we need to make sure that Longmont City Council hears our voices as well.

Thanks again. I look forward to seeing everyone tonight at the City Council meeting.
Kaye Fissinger
Longmont Resident
————————————————————————————————–
Well, now, as the SNL Church Lady would say, isn’t that special? Of all the people who got up and spoke at this meeting, I don’t remember seeing a single Lifebridge supporter. It was a cacophony of the usual anti-Lifebridge crowd. Using Mr. McCoy’s logic and his worrying that the robo-calls would bring out people that meant him harm, in reality, it was the above email that appeared to have more impact based on who showed up and who spoke. ” Lifebridge is at it again“? “…w e will prevent Firestone from annexing the Lifebridge development“? “…make sure the City Council knows…” ? That sounds pretty accusatory, negative, aggressive, and agitating, possibly more so than the robo-calls.

Why do I get the feeling Mr. McCoy won’t chastise them in the same manner?

Mr. McCoy, who were you meaning when you said ” and others” during your accusations? Did you mean Progress Now Action? If you meant them or someone else you should say it. I’m sure you don’t want to appear to be inconsistent or partisan. Cherry picking can be a dangerous and embarrassing thing if you, a) either don’t have all the facts, or b) don’t know what you’re talking about.

Longmont/Firestone Dustup Pt.3

VIEWER WARNING: This piece is bound to really irritate some people. I’m well aware of the anger this will illicit, and your expected complaints have been considered. I try to be constructive when I criticize, but sometimes it’s nearly impossible. This is such a case. In the interest of completeness, and sharing this continuing story, I submit the following:

So far, I’ve reported on Firestone’s Trustee Board meeting, now it’s Longmont‘s turn. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot said about Firestone’s comments, but I suspect there will be as Firestone just approved the Firelight Park annexation.

But there was this…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZnG9kXAsnk

In it, Longmont City Councilmember Sean McCoy rips into Firestone’s Mayor Mike Simone over his comment ” LifeBridge was forced to “walk away” by the election of an anti-religious faction to the LongmontCity Council“. He also took offense to the ” immoral” description of Longmont made by Trustee Steve Curtis. He said he found it ” very unethical on this individuals part“, meaning Mayor Simone. He basically threatened a lawsuit for slander.

Where to begin.

I’ve been to ONE Firestone board meeting, and I’m not an elected official or anything, but even I know that they are a Board of Trustee’s, NOT a City Council. Members are called Trustee’s, NOT Councilmembers. I’m starting to agree with several people who have mentioned to me this constant habit of getting peoples names wrong (and I guess titles now) and how it shows a total lack of respect. In this case, it’s Firestone’s leaders. In other cases, well, you listen for it yourself.

Next, Mr. McCoy’s complaining of ” inflammatory” comments. Some of us about fell out of our chairs on this one. This is the same guy who called people he disagreed with (we’re talking citizens here, not elected officials) ” the lunatic fringe“. He also said in the same breath how Longmont shouldn’t talk ” smack” about Boulder, yet it’s alright for Longmont to do that to Firestone? Watch the 1/29/08 video again ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEo7ZF3eKYU ) and replace Boulder with Longmont, and Longmont with Firestone in the appropriate places and context. I know some of you hate it when I point out total hypocrisy like this, but it speaks for itself here.

Then this outrage over the ” anti-religious” comment. Here’s the problem: On 1/8/08( http://denver.yourhub.com/Longmont/Blogs/News-Politics/Commentary/Blog~412831.aspx), Mr. McCoy made the point of his detachment from the Lifebridge issue as he said he and the other new members of council didn’t vote on Lifebridge. So in essence, he’s saying the new council had nothing to do with what happened to Lifebridge. If that’s the case, then why would he take offense to Mayor Simone’s inference that an anti-religious faction was to blame when THEY HADN’T EVEN BEEN ELECTED YET AND OBVIOUSLY COULDN’T VOTE ON IT, as Mr. McCoy himself made clear as his closing point on 1/8/08?

Mr. McCoy tried to make the case that other factors caused Lifebridge to pull out (remember the ” 600% of Longmont residents” nonsense?). He must not have believed that nonsense himself, most people I know didn’t buy it, and obviously the Firestone Board of Trustee’s didn’t swallow that line either. His anger over this comment revealed that his 1/8/08 comments were a whitewash, otherwise why would this sting so much?

To be fair, is it possible Mr. McCoy was truly outraged over being called ” anti-religious? Absolutely. I assume most public officials are concerned with the image they put out. They wouldn’t want to be publicly called ” anti-religious“, true or not, for fear of alienating over half of their constituents. Then again, insulting constituents is getting to be a regular occurrence for Mr. McCoy. Let’s now add leaders from other cities and the press to the list, the same press ( Times-Call) he bought ad space from during his campaign. Very consistent and principled, not.

What’s the point of all this? I know I won’t be popular holding these officials accountable in this fashion when it needs to be done, and I find no joy in doing it. But these are our elected representatives. They should avoid embarrassing themselves, and the rest of us, and I’m hoping they might look at and listen to themselves, and learn from it in the future. And you wonder why so many people (not just in Longmont) are apathetic to the issues and these officials? I’m trying to get more people involved, this doesn’t help.

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?

Symbionic Smackdown

Anyone catch the “talking out of both sides of his mouth” example given by Sean McCoy at the 1/29/08 Longmont City Council Meeting? On one hand he said “we have to be very careful as council members here not to say things that smack about our sister city of Boulder“. Hmm, okay, fair enough, setting some ground rules for council members. But of course that’s not what he was really saying, follow along.

You can view it at the following YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEo7ZF3eKYU

He went on to say he’s “kinda get a little tired of that“, of what? Council members talking smack about Boulder? Who does he mean? In the next breath he says exactly what he really means: ” the lunatic fringe has kinda taken it upon themselves to use that as a divisive and in a way of separating out the community“. He then went on to describe the “symbionic” relationship between the two cities. So the message is we must bow to the altar that is Boulder and we need to “give that respect to them“. If not, you’re part of the “lunatic fringe“. Count me in!

By my count, this is at least the second time Councilmember McCoy has directly insulted a large chunk of Longmont residents. The first was insulting supporters of Lifebridge and his ridiculous theory of how 600% of Longmont was against the annexation. Alright, then how does he explain the paltry 31% who voted for Richard Juday, one of the anti-Lifebridge annexation leaders? Only off by 569% there. And those 6,000 signatures he spoke of, odd how only 4,338 voted for Juday, isn’t it? I thought we had a strong message by the petition? I always thought that was a sham, and the election partially proved it.

It’s not hard to jump to the conclusion that had the Lifebridge annexation remained on the ballot it would’ve been very close. I believe some members of council and the general public got an incorrect reading of the overall public’s mood towards “change” and the Lifebridge issue based on November’s election. I also believe Lifebridge read a little too much into it and based their decision to pull out of the process based on it. But that’s just my guess. Juday’s supporters can’t tell me they weren’t surprised that he didn’t get more of the anti-annexation petition signer’s votes, or the Levison vote from November.

How does this relate to Councilmember McCoy and his repeated insulting behavior? While he was one of the few that actually got a majority in the November election, and maybe thinks he has some political capital to spend (by attacking opponents), he needs to take a harder look at what just happened in the special election. He appears to not be very observant or see warning signs when in that very same council meeting two people got up in Public Invited To Be Heard and tore into Councilmember Benker for basically doing the same thing in a previous meeting. Yet he did it anyway.

The main problem I see is the poor example he’s leading, especially to his often abrasive supporters. If it’s alright for him to behave that way, what’s to say his less, hmm how to put this, diplomatic followers won’t be emboldened to really cross the line?