Monday, July 21, 2014

Halter scolds Lamborn on vet issue

Posted By on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 4:42 PM

Halter blasts his opponent in the congressional race at a hastily called news conference Monday. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Halter blasts his opponent in the congressional race at a hastily called news conference Monday.

Irv Halter
, a retired two-star Air Force general and Democratic candidate for the 5th Congressional District, which includes El Paso County, called a news conference today to lash out at incumbent Doug Lamborn.

Lamborn told the Gazette he missed a bunch of Veterans Affairs Committee hearings over the last couple years because he was forced to choose among hearings of other committees on which he serves. "Sometimes three will meet at the same time," Lamborn was quoted saying in the daily's story that ran in today's editioin. "There is a constant allocation of time."

Navy veteran Julie Radcliffe tells reporters she didn't get help from Lamborn's office so will vote for Halter. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Navy veteran Julie Radcliffe tells reporters she didn't get help from Lamborn's office so will vote for Halter.
Standing next to a sign that said "Congressman Lamborn missed 58% of the meetings of the Veterans Affairs Committee," Halter lashed out at Lamborn.

He noted Lamborn failed to attend hearings that discussed veteran wait times for care. "He didn't even show up," Halter said. "I'm a vet who served 32 years and I am deeply troubled. This is exactly what is wrong with Washington. How does he come back to the district and tell 100,000 veterans he is looking out for them?"

Halter says if elected he hold monthly meetings in the district on veterans issues and get to know the Veterans Administration leaders so he can follow up with them on specific constituent needs.

Such as the one expressed by Julie Radcliffe, who said she happened by the news conference outside the VA clinic on Spruce Street and stopped when she saw Halter's sign.

Radcliffe told reporters when she, a Navy veteran, contacted Lamborn's office to try to cut red tape stalling her treatment for an ailment that hasn't been clearly diagnosed, but she didn't hear back. Later, she was told that Congress can't interfere with the VA, she said.

When Halter was asked by a reporter what he would say to Lamborn, he said, "Get off your butt and do something. It's time for you to get engaged. Doug Lamborn has had eight years of failure, and it's time for him to go."

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Judge upholds Colorado's contentious gun laws

Posted By on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 4:20 PM

  • Shutterstock

Today, the gun laws that led to the eventual recall of Colorado Springs state legislator John Morse were upheld by U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger, who found them constitutional.

Regarding the limit on 15-round magazines, Krieger wrote in her 50-page opinion, "No evidence presented here suggests that the general ability of a person to defend him or herself is seriously diminished if magazines are limited to 15 rounds. Despite more than 40 years instructing individuals and law enforcement in defensive firearm use, the Plaintiffs’ expert witness, Massad Ayoob, identified only three anecdotal instances in which individuals engaging in defensive use of firearms fired more than 15 rounds, and not all of these successful defensive actions involved semiautomatic weapons."

The whole thing is actually a fascinating read, and well worth the time. Bizarrely, it begins with a pretty clear argument that the plaintiffs actually don't really have standing to sue the state — meaning they can't show they're directly harmed by the law — but the court decided to take the case anyway.

Krieger touches on the argument that smaller magazines offer a "pause" for reloading, which often gives more victims time to escape, or time for law enforcement to intercede. As far as the argument that only law-abiding citizens will obey the limited law:

"Hypothetically, this may be true, but the Court declines to speculate about the subjective intentions and means of unspecified criminals involved in unspecified gun violence," the judge writes. "The Court accepts the unrebutted opinion of Dr. Zax, who testified that the magazine size restriction will reduce the overall number of large-capacity magazines available in Colorado and his testimony about the effects of federal firearms regulation in Virginia."

Multiple times, Krieger writes that it's not her job to consider whether or not the legislation was a good idea — or "'good' or 'bad,' 'wise' or 'unwise,' 'sound policy' or a 'hastily-considered overreaction'" — and says it again in her final opinion on the magazine limit.

"Whether adoption of a fifteen-round magazine limit is a sound public policy or a perfect fit with the General Assembly’s objective to improve public safety is not the question before this Court," she writes. "The fit may not be perfect, but the evidence establishes ... the provisions of § 18-12-302 are permissible under the Second Amendment."

As far as the mandatory background checks, which include a variety of situations where firearms are loaned, Krieger writes: 

"Contrary to the Plaintiffs’ position, however, the burden imposed on the right is no more severe than the law already provides with regard to firearm sales. ... Nothing in the Second Amendment can be read to suggest that a permissible  burden on commercial sales of firearms cannot similarly be extended to apply to those acquiring firearms by loan."

Reactions are predictable, with Colorado Attorney John Suthers — who's looking at possible run for Colorado Springs mayor — winning the day for his jab: “Like Judge Krieger, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office has never asserted that the laws in question are good, wise or sound policy," he says in the release. "As it does in all cases, the AG’s Office has fulfilled its responsibility to defend the constitutionality of the Colorado law in question."

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Friday, May 9, 2014

UPDATE: Udall backs student loan reform

Posted By on Fri, May 9, 2014 at 12:01 PM

To clarify, the Buffet Rule does not prevent millionaires from deducting charitable donations on their taxes. The Buffet Rule, as it's implemented in the Bank On Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, changes how charitable donations are deducted so people earning $1 million or more are not taxed at a lower rate than those who earn less than $1 million.

——- ORIGINAL POST, THURSDAY, MAY 8, 2:12 P.M. ——- 

Sen. Mark Udall is one of 26 congressional sponsors backing the Bank On Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday, May 6. 

This bill is not a cure-all for the brutal student loan situation, as reported on in our May 7 cover story, but it's a helpful step. The bill allows people with existing student loans to refinance their loans at the current interest rate. This is good for almost everyone with loans. The current interest rate for undergraduate Stafford loans is 3.86 percent, and for graduate loans 5.41 percent.

Sure, Forbes reported yesterday that these rates will go up by 0.8 percent next year, but 4.66 percent still beats 6.8 percent. It's a simple change, it's financially sensible, and after the bipartisan support for the student loan interest rate changes implemented last year, it sounds like this bill has a good chance of passing.

So here's why it's not going to pass as-is.

Section 3 of this bill adds a "Fair Share tax" to fund its execution. This tax, also called the Buffet rule for benevolent billionaire Warren Buffet, would be levied on Americans with more than $1,000,000 in income. A press release from Udall's office states  the Buffet Rule closes a tax loophole that allows millionaires and billionaires to pay less in taxes through charitable donations.

That's where the potential bipartisan support flies away. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the minority whip, did not wait for formal debate to begin to criticize the bill. According to a May 7 report from the National Journal, Cornyn called the bill a Trojan horse for the tax. He says while his party is more than happy to talk about loan reduction, he feels the educational goals in this bill are just an excuse to raise taxes. In the Journal story, Cornyn notes "Our economy grew at 0.1 percent [first quarter 2014]."

Mind, the gross domestic product in 2013 was $16.8 trillion, according to the International Monetary Fund. An 0.1 percent increase would mean the US added $16.8 billion to its economic output — a little more than the GDP of Rwanda ($16.4 billion), or well over that of Iceland ($13.2 billion). It's lower than last quarter's 2.6 percent growth, which was $437 billion, or more than the combined 2013 GDPs of Belgium and Iceland, but the US still added a small country's entire economic growth. 

Still, even without the Buffet Rule, allowing student-loan holders to refinance at the current rate seems like a simple, helpful move. Udall says, "This common-sense bill would allow students to benefit from today's low interest rates and could amount to hundreds or thousands of dollars a year in savings."

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Udall urges military to be prepared for fires

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Udall: Getting firefighting forces lined up.
  • Udall: Getting firefighting forces lined up.

With fire season nipping at our heels, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., is calling on the military to be prepared to activate its aerial firefighting forces after the Forest Service's contractors failed to deliver five air tankers in compliance with their contracts.

Udall has long been a champion for wildland firefighting, and now is insisting that the nation's firefighting assets be ready to go, given the devastating fires of the last two years, including the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012 and the Black Forest Fire in 2013.

Here's a news release from his office:

Mark Udall, who has led the fight to strengthen the federal firefighting tanker fleet, called on the military to elevate the readiness status of its aerial firefighting assets — C-130s equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems — after the U.S. Forest Service and three private contractors failed to deliver five next-generation air tankers in accordance with their contracts. Udall said Coloradans should not have to worry about their lives or homes because of unacceptable contract delays.

"The U.S. Forest Service predicts another cycle of substantial fire activity is likely in 2014, and based on lessons learned from previous fires and delays in delivery of additional U.S. Forest Service tankers, I believe that support from Department of Defense aircraft may be more critical than ever," Udall wrote in his letter to the Pentagon. "As such, I request that you elevate the readiness status of the MAFFS units during the 2014 fire season to ensure those assets can provide expedited response times in the event of a major fire. A shorter response time by MAFFS assets would help fill gaps in the U.S. Forest Service tanker fleet and would help provide an effective initial response capable of containing fires early."

Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee and the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the military assets, coupled with the two next-generation tankers already online, will provide a total of more than 22 large air tankers to protect Colorado communities until the additional five next-generation tankers are brought online.

He said the U.S. Forest Service and three private contractors' failures to deliver are unacceptable and require accountability.

"These tankers promised to be a game changer for western communities grappling with the perennial threat of modern mega-fires. Since then, I have been repeatedly assured that they will be delivered at any moment," Udall wrote on his letter to the U.S. Forest Service. "While I am pleased that two of these safer, faster and more reliable tankers are now available to join the existing fleet of approximately 20 large air tankers — which is an improvement from 2013 — I am deeply concerned that delivery of the remaining five will be further delayed and unavailable for the 2014 wildfire season. This is unacceptable."

Udall has been a relentless advocate for Colorado communities facing the threat of catastrophic mega-fires. He has been the leading voice in Congress to update and strengthen the federal air tanker fleet, including through the transfer of excess military aircraft. He recently pressed the U.S. Forest Service to quickly adopt the Government Accountability Office's recommendations on how to upgrade its air tanker fleet.

Udall also has championed common-sense programs and strategies to prevent Western wildfires. He recently introduced bipartisan legislation to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to proactively work with states and localities on wildfire mitigation projects. He also has been a tireless advocate to encourage homeowners to prepare their homes for wildfire, including clearing fuels from around their homes and making a plan for what to do if faced with an imminent wildfire.
Read Udall's letters here.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Schriner approved; Gaebler insults Douglas Bruce

Posted By on Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 2:58 PM

North Nevada Avenue is one of nine urban renewal areas in the city that will be overseen by those newly appointed to the Urban Renewal Authority board. - COURTESY CSURA
  • Courtesy CSURA
  • North Nevada Avenue is one of nine urban renewal areas in the city that will be overseen by those newly appointed to the Urban Renewal Authority board.

Despite Nolan Schriner's abrupt treatment of three City Council members last week, Council voted 6-3 to approve his appointment to the Urban Renewal Authority — the agency through which hundreds of millions of dollars for City for Champions tourism project will flow.

We reported on Schriner's behavior during an interview held on March 31. Council members on hand during that session were Council President Keith King, and Councilors Joel Miller and Don Knight.

Knight and Miller voted against Schriner's nomination, along with Councilor Helen Collins, who voted against all three nominees. She stated she's not a fan of urban renewal authorities, because they "often have been the source of shady real estate deals" that subsidize developers at the expense of funding for schools, firefighters and other urban services.
Bill Murray, retired Army colonel who monitors city business, urged Council to take more time in appointing members to a board that will have far-reaching powers over the city and taxes for decades to come due to plans for funding City for Champions with local tax dollars. "You’re approving three people without even asking why the others resigned," Murray said. "Not knowing the full scope of the decision makes us all liable for the outcome."

URA Chair David Neville then told Council all URA meetings are open to the public, and added, "We don’t have any plans that are not open to the public."

Council voted to approve all three appointees. Votes on Valerie Hunter and Peter Scoville were 7-2, with Miller and Collins dissenting.

After votes already had been taken on Hunter and Schriner, King then asked for public comment, drawing barbs from anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce. "This is a new low," he said. "Vote and discuss later? How can you people sit there with a straight face and allow such a procedure? Because you don’t give a damn about citizen comment."

Bruce earlier, during open public comment, pointed out a recent tweet from Councilor Jill Gaebler that said, "Sounds like that jackass Doug Bruce."

Ironically, Bruce noted, her profile shows that among her interests is "taking the time to be kind."

"If that's the definition of being kind, what's her definition of being mean?" Bruce said. "I would suggest, Mr. President, that it's your responsibility not to have public censure, but to take her aside and explain she is making the whole Council look bad."

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Erotic novelist/politician won't get $54 million

Posted By on Tue, Feb 4, 2014 at 5:26 PM

Jaxine Bubis
  • Jaxine Bubis
So, remember Jaxine Bubis?

Bubis was seeking the Republican ticket to replace then-Senate President John Morse in the recall election last year. She had some early support from big names, but the conservatives ultimately chose former City Councilor Bernie Herpin as their candidate. Morse was recalled in September, Herpin took his place, and the rest is history.

Or not. The thing about Bubis is she wasn't just any failed candidate. She lost her shot at a Senate seat after it was revealed that she had authored pornographic romance novels under a pen name. Bubis didn't take well to having her naughty past outed — the story was paraded around national media — and went after state and local Republican leaders and entities for $54 million, saying they owed her the money for ruining her reputation and her chance for political office.

But that didn't work out for her either. Here's the latest from the El Paso County Republicans:

Dear Republicans:

You may have heard that Jaxine Bubis, who ran for the Republican nomination in the Senate District 11 recall election of Sen. John Morse, placed liens on the property of several individuals and entities, including the El Paso County Republican Central Committee and El Paso County Republican Chairman Jeff Hays.

We want you to know that we proactively resolved the issue.

Last week, a judge declared the liens to be spurious, entered an order to have them removed, and ordered Jaxine Bubis to pay our attorney's fees.

Case closed. Now let's go win some more elections.


Daniel Cole
Executive Director
El Paso County Republican Party

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lamborn seeks fifth term

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Lamborn: Wants another term. - COURTESY LAMBORN CAMPAIGN
  • Courtesy Lamborn campaign
  • Lamborn: Wants another term.

Rep. Doug Lamborn
, R-Colorado Springs, is officially in the race for a fifth term, he says in a news release.

There was no campaign event at which he announced his candidacy.

Lamborn is being opposed by Democrat Irv Halter. More from him later.

Lamborn's news release:

Today, Congressman Doug Lamborn formally announces his campaign for re-election to the Fifth Congressional District of Colorado. Congressman Lamborn, currently in his fourth term in the House of Representatives, serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, and the House Natural Resources Committee, where he also serves as Chairman of the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee.

First elected to Congress in 2006, Congressman Lamborn is a staunch fiscal, social, and national security conservative. He is committed to repealing and replacing the disaster that is Obamacare, reducing the size and scope of the federal government, keeping taxes low, and ensuring that the United States of America has the strongest and most effective fighting force in the entire world. He previously served 12 years as a State Representative and State Senator in the Colorado General Assembly, where he was the Senate Sponsor of the biggest tax cut in Colorado history.

Congressman Lamborn has been named the Most Conservative Member of Congress four times by the National Journal and has received top marks from trusted organizations such as: Club for Growth, American Conservative Union, National Taxpayers Union, National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, National Right to Life, Family Research Council, and Americans for Prosperity.

During his time in Washington, Congressman Lamborn has worked hard to bring a new Combat Aviation Brigade, Veterans Cemetery, and a Veterans Clinic to the Fifth Congressional District. Congressman Lamborn has twice passed significant energy legislation in the House that would create hundreds of thousands of American jobs. He passed a bill in the House that would eliminate federal funding for left-leaning National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He introduced a bill that became law legalizing public access to the Manitou Incline.

"I will continue to fight for conservative, constitutional, and traditional values. I will work hard for the people of the Fifth Congressional District, for our men and women in uniform, and for a bright and prosperous future for America. I would appreciate the continued support of the voters of the District. It is an honor and a privilege to serve the Fifth Congressional District in our nation's Capital." - Congressman Doug Lamborn.
According to campaign finance records, Lamborn had raised $122,000 as of last fall, compared to Halter's $121,000.

Earlier this week, Halter took aim at Lamborn in a release, as follows:

Congressional challenger Irv Halter, a retired Major General, today criticized Congressman Doug Lamborn's belated opposition to steep cuts in military pensions supported by Lamborn last month.

Halter remarked, "This is another reason why so many Coloradans can't stand career politicians. A few weeks ago, Congressman Lamborn voted to slash the pensions of veterans....this week he's introducing phony legislation to restore the pensions. Lamborn's legislation won't pass, but he'll run around our area and claim that he's trying to fix the problem that he created. We made a promise to our veterans who put their lives on the line in service to our country, and we must make sure we keep this promise."

The budget supported by Lamborn limits, in the words of the Colorado Springs Gazette, "the cost of living retirement increases for veterans under the age of 62 through a formula that shaves a percentage point from the consumer price index, a measure of inflation. The new pay increase formula could cost a 42-year-old military retiree 20 percent of his retirement pay over 20 years."

This is just another example of how Congressman Lamborn is an ineffective Representative for the 5th district. Last week, The New York Times reported that Congress is only scheduled to be in session for 1/3 of the year. However, Congressman Lamborn will be paid his full salary and pension while at the same time cutting pensions for our veterans. 

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

It's about CA$H: More millionaires in politics

Posted By on Thu, Jan 9, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Lamborn: Not loaded.
  • Lamborn: Not loaded.
When it comes to politics, you can't say the word without dollar-signs coming to mind.

So it's probably not a shock to learn that, for the first time, more than half the members of the House of Representatives are millionaires, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' website opensecrets.org, which analyzed net worth of members based on filings they must make with the government.

"Of 534 current members of Congress, at least 268 had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012, according to disclosures filed last year by all members of Congress and candidates," the center reports. "The median net worth for the 530 current lawmakers who were in Congress as of the May filing deadline was $1,008,767 — an increase from last year when it was $966,000."

Last year only 257 members, or 48 percent, had a median net work of $1 million or more. 

From the Center's website:
In some ways, lawmakers' finances look a lot like those of many Americans. They include diverse portfolios of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and real estate. They have bank accounts, credit cards and mortgages. The difference: Politicians generally have more money and — unlike most people they represent — they must make their investments public. Another difference: Politicians, during the course of their official duties, routinely have access to non-public information. The STOCK Act, which passed in April of 2012, sought to clarify ambiguous insider trading regulations. 
Our own Doug Lamborn, a Republican, remains in the bottom half, ranked 383rd, with assets worth $455,000 or less. The number isn't precise, because of how members are required to report asset and liability values. Lamborn, a lawyer, reported no income other than his congressman's salary of $174,000 a year.

By the way, that's a far cry from the pay received by those serving in Congress from 1789 to 1815, which was $6 per day. The two years after that, it was $1,500, perhaps a seemingly handsome figure for the times, but actually the equivalent of $22,727 in 2013, according to the online calculator we used.

Opensecrets.org reports that seven of the Top 10 wealthiest House members are Democrats, a bit of a surprise, since it's usually Republicans that are the staunchest advocates for the rich. I guess both parties can be associated with the elite class.

The richest House member is Darrell Issa, California Republican, with a maximum value of $597.8 million, which is more than twice the budget of the City of Colorado Springs.

Second is Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, with $418.7 million, and third is Colorado's Jared Polis, $326.1 million, also a Democrat.

Here's a complete Top 10 list.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Poll reveals everything important about Colorado

Posted By on Wed, Dec 11, 2013 at 8:59 AM

  • Shutterstock
Public Policy Polling
— the same outfit that couldn't believe the results it was getting from the recall until they proved to be true — has a new poll out that's chock full of interesting tidbits. It was conducted via automated telephone interviews between Dec. 3 and 4, and reached 928 Colorado voters.

To wit:

• PPP asked "if there was an election for the state Legislature today," would the respondent go blue or red? 42 percent said Democrat, 47 percent said Republican. Don't mess with Texas (-sized love of guns and cheap energy rates), y'all. "Those numbers are perhaps also indicative of how much trouble Democrats would be in at the top of the ticket next year if the GOP candidate fields were a little bit stronger," Public Policy says.

• Support for gay marriage is running high: 53 percent support it against 39 percent. Even 66 percent of Republicans support civil unions, which were passed last session. Regardless, Colorado is the proud owner of a 2006 constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Smart move, us.

• Only 30 percent of Republicans support raising the minimum wage, but, overall, 56 percent of respondents say $10 an hour is fine with them.

Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are enjoying a fairly good year, which may or may not be the case if one über-famous ex-quarterback was still wobbling his way through the season. Respondents agreed, with 76 percent saying they would rather having Manning and 10 percent saying Tim Tebow. The latter's clear insanity notwithstanding, I have no idea what the remaining "Not sure" 14 percent were thinking.

Hilariously, but not surprisingly, the support for Tebow is split down party lines: 76 percent of Republicans like him, as opposed to 43 percent of Democrats.

• Marijuana is still popular, with 53 percent thinking it should be legal. These numbers sort of lose their import in the wake of Amendment 64 and the federal government's relaxed view of its implementation, but there they are.

And there's a bunch of results about how Hillary Clinton would fare against different candidates, but who the hell wants to deal with the presidential race already?
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Showdown coming on city budget

Posted By on Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 3:10 PM

  • uwdigitalcollections
A standoff is about to happen over the 2014 Colorado Springs city budget.

During a work session Tuesday morning, City Council discussed the process of what happens if Mayor Steve Bach vetoes the budget changes Council has made. Changes include allocating $565,000 for parks watering from the city's reserve account and a similar amount from the Police Department. In addition, Council has specified the city have 12 departments, not five as the mayor desires. Council created more departments to prevent Bach from shifting money within the budget without Council oversight.

Or as Councilor Jill Gaebler said at Tuesday's afternoon formal Council meeting: "We have been accused of micromanaging by changing to 12 appropriating departments. I don’t think it’s micromanaging to have us be more transparent as a community. If the executive branch wants to move money from parks to roads, maybe they should come to us and ask so we can communicate that to our citizens."

In the morning session, Assistant City Attorney Wynetta Massey outlined the process, saying that once Council adopts the budget, Council has 48 hours to communicate the action to Bach. The mayor then has five days to take action. He can either approve the budget as proposed by Council, veto it or do nothing and allow it to become effective without his approval.

Council expects Bach will veto the budget changes, and he's scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the City Administration Building, for "2014 budget topics."

Council has scheduled a special meeting for 9 a.m. on Dec. 18 to take action on the veto, if necessary. The nine-member Council needs six votes to override the mayor's veto.

That shouldn't be a problem, considering the vote Tuesday afternoon on the city's 2014 budget was 8-1, with Councilor Helen Collins dissenting, saying she had recommended several cuts in spending that aren't included in the budget.

Another problem: Notice of action on the budget has to be published 10 days prior to the meeting, which might prevent action until after Jan. 1. Also, if either the mayor or Council files suit over the budget, alleging one or the other over-stepped its authority, that could further delay adopting a budget before 2014 is upon us.

The city has never failed to have a budget in place by Jan. 1. While it's unclear what would happen in the absence of a budget, Massey said it's possible the 2013 budget, plus 10 percent, would take effect under legal authority of the state.

This year's general fund budget started at $232.7 million, but Bach sought amendments, and Council approved, to increase it to $253 million. This included spending from reserve funds on flood control, police motorcycles and lawsuit settlements. The proposed 2014 budget totals $246.6 million. Adding 10 percent to the city's 2013 budget would push spending to $278 million, which is way more than the revenue the city is forecasting. So as you can see, a budget stalemate would throw the city's finances into a tizzy. 
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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Manitou Springs to OK marijuana, mayor gives epic speech

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2013 at 5:41 PM

Mayor Marc Snyder, in yellow, and the Manitou Springs City Council. - BRYCE CRAWFORD
  • Bryce Crawford
  • Mayor Marc Snyder, in yellow, and the Manitou Springs City Council.

On Tuesday night, Venue 515 hosted a packed room — there were at least 30 people standing along the walls and going out the door, with all seats in the auditorium full — to hear Manitou Springs City Council direct city staff to proceed with creating regulations allowing for recreational marijuana in the small town. There wasn't exactly a vote, though five councilors supported moving forward. (The two opposed, Gary Smith and Matt Carpenter, wanted the town to vote on it.)

But before the 7 p.m. meeting led into the 11:45 p.m. decision, it seemed nearly everybody opposed to marijuana in Manitou Springs spoke. By my count, 35 people spoke against it, with only 13 in support. This was in stark contrast to a meeting a few months back, when the numbers were evenly split and the mood was much more cordial.

Speaking of mood, things really broke down late, as Mayor Marc Snyder promised they would when he tried to halt the meeting at 10 p.m. and take it up again the next week. Here's just a sampling of the ground covered:

• Multiple business owners, including Tim Haas and Ryan Cole, said marijuana would hurt their bottom line, and some even threatened to pull out of the town.
The crowd standing and cheering at the request of a speaker. - BRYCE CRAWFORD
  • Bryce Crawford
  • The crowd standing and cheering at the request of a speaker.

• In the same vein, more than one person threatened to pull their kids from the school district, thereby hurting future funding.

• One guy quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.

• Around 10:45 p.m., marijuana advocate Mark Slaugh boldly picked a fight with the entire crowd when he spoke.

• One woman read a letter apparently written by her college-aged daughter attesting to the perils of pot.

• Speaking to the negative characterizations given to marijuana partakers, one thin, elderly woman drew a laugh when she said, "I'm one of them who might [come to Manitou to] buy."

• After standing in the back with a sign asking Council to slow down, Manitou Springs Fire Chief Keith Buckmiller told the crowd they should only share their opinion if they lived in Manitou Springs: "Move on your own city council and leave ours alone."

But the highlight came at the very end, when a tired and clearly irritated Snyder spent nine minutes passionately delivering one of the best summations of the issue I've ever read, seen or heard. It's a behemoth, but very much worth experiencing in its entirety, if only to see what it's like to be on the other end of the public fire hose.

Here's the audio, with some transcript highlights in bold:

I hate these kinds of decisions, because no matter what decision you make a significant segment of the voters are gonna be upset, you know, and it really is demoralizing sometimes. But nobody ever said life was easy or you got a free pass, so.

You know, I got news for you: I was not a supporter of Amendment 64. Not because I have any heartfelt opinions on whether pot should be legal or [whether] people should be able to grow it. I saw it as a big, hot mess coming down on my desk, and guess what it is: A big, hot mess. I’m sorry, Mr. [Brian] Vicente [who co-wrote Amendment 64 and spoke at the meeting], OK, but that’s the way I saw it from the beginning and it’s proved to be true.

I knew we took a risk waiting to see what Colorado Springs and all the other jurisdictions were gonna do first, but you know what? We needed to have all the information we could have, you know? We’re talking about one vote in Colorado Springs: It was 5 to 4 to opt out. If that had switched, are you telling me that nobody here would be upset about having stores in Manitou, that it wouldn’t be a big issue anymore? I don’t think so. I think people have really heartfelt opinions on this, you know? And I think that we’d be having a similar discussion right now.

I’m not excited about being the only jurisdiction that may license and regulate these things. At the same time, you know, maybe it ends up being a boon for this town, all right?
As Mayor Pro Tem Carpenter pointed out, back on Aug. 20 he and I motioned and seconded and argued for and voted for an advisory vote, to put it on this last November’s ballot on this specific question about stores. I agree with him: I thought we had a single-subject rule in this state and that ballot measures had to have a single subject. Well, [Amendment 64] had multiple subjects and I think you can understand why; because to just legalize it without having a plan in place for the legal purchase, to me, is just funneling money to the black market. How is that not possible?

And I’ve listened to so many people that I love and respect tell me, ‘Well, I voted for 64, but I don’t want pot stores.’ Well, you know, I’m sorry, did you read it? Because it says it in there so many times to regulate it like alcohol, and where do you go to get alcohol? You go to a liquor store. So, is it really such a huge stretch to expect that this is what was intended by the voters, that you would go to legal pot stores to buy your pot? I’m sorry, I just don’t buy that one.

Money-wise, first of all I don’t believe in all the doom and gloom that this is gonna ruin the town, and this is gonna affect tourism. At the same time, I don’t believe all the sunshine and rose petals either, OK? That it’s gonna be manna from heaven, and it’s gonna bring in all these tourists. I personally think it’ll be similar to the dispensary experience, in which it’ll be negligible as far as the effects it'll have on those things. ... And during the medical process, I heard a lot of the same arguments that I’ve heard throughout these last several months. ... Some people [recently] explained to me that, no, that we are seeing an increase in youth access — I don’t blame that necessarily on the dispensary owners, I blame that on unscrupulous adults.

Tensions ran high among speakers. - BRYCE CRAWFORD
  • Bryce Crawford
  • Tensions ran high among speakers.
And guess what? It’s legal in Colorado now. You know, we all swore an oath up here and the way that goes is we swear to uphold the U.S. Constitution, the Colorado Constitution and the charter of the city of Manitou Springs, and it is now part of the constitution in Colorado. Pot is legal. People can grow it. I’m more worried about the unscrupulous jerk who’s gonna grow it in his basement and go out and sell it in little dime bags to kids than I am about these stores.

These people are gonna be so watched and so heavily regulated, it would take an idiot to do something stupid, you know? And you want to talk about the black market, and you wanna go to your neighborhood or a street dealer, and he’s gonna say, ‘Hey kid, sure, I got a bag for you, and I’ve got something else in here, you might want to try some of this or some of that.’ But when it comes to these stores, only an idiot would try to sell other drugs [when] they’ve been given the golden ticket to sell pot. So I really think that these arguments don’t hold a lot of water for me. ...

I’ve watched for 20 years as these ridiculous constitutional amendments come before the Colorado voters and almost every time they smell a rat and they vote these things out in incredible numbers. I look at what happened even with the school measure, on 66, which failed in El Paso County 3 to 1 and yet the pot-tax measures passed 2 to 1. So don’t tell me that people don’t know what they’re voting for, OK? I have more confidence in people than I’ve been led to believe this evening.

At the same time, I did vote for an advisory vote. And you know what? I would still love to have a vote, you know, and let everybody come together, let the committees form on both sides of the issue and just have a big, old vote on it. But you know what? I made that argument on Aug. 20 and it got voted down. And I do believe in representative democracy — you know, I’ve sent this email out to a lot of people: Don’t expect me to, after fighting as hard as I can for something and then losing it, I’m not gonna then try and pull an end-around on the rest of the council. I have too much love and respect for my peers up here on council to then decide that, ‘Well, I’m not happy with their decision.’ You know, the hardest part of being on a council is being able to accept when you’re on the losing end of a vote, and I only see two options: You can either find a way to get behind the majority, or you can shut up and get out of the way. [Applause break]

You know, and then we hear a lot about kids, and what message are we sending to youth. And I understand that, believe me, it worries me. When you ask a kid who doesn’t smoke marijuana the number one reason why they don’t, they’ll tell it’s because it’s illegal. And that scares the heck out of me that it’s no longer illegal. But when you ask a kid who doesn’t drink alcohol, ‘Why don’t you drink alcohol?’ The answer is usually, ‘Because I’ve seen what it’s done to my grandfather, or to my uncle, or to my sister or my best friend,’ OK? And I think that’s the kind of direction we need to be going with education on marijuana. 

Prohibitions do not work. Look at all the problems that we had after prohibition of alcohol with gangs, and the mafias, and the killings and everything else. And then we repealed that Prohibition. Is there anybody now selling illegal alcohol? Maybe a few places in Appalachia, they’re still making moonshine, but that’s gone now. It’s all above board, and that’s the direction I think the voters wanted this to go with Amendment 64.

It’s not my issue. I’m not a champion on this issue, to be honest with you. I realize I put myself in a position as being an elected official that I don’t get to cop out and just take a pass on things. So I’m trying, and coming through.

And you talk about kids and what message are we sending to kids with this: How about the hypocrisy? I ask at every public meeting that we’ve had related to this, all the way back to the dispensaries, ‘How do you answer that question: Why is it that alcohol and tobacco — which cause more death and disease by every measure — why are they not only are they legal, but they’re celebrated?’ How many people go to Coors Field? Busch Stadium? The cool jazz festival down in New Orleans?

Why is it that those products have gotten this exalted, legal, celebratory status and marijuana is this evil street drug that we have to tell our kids, ‘Don’t you use that. That’s a bad drug.’ And you know what? I’m tired of being a hypocrite. I’ve tried to explain to kids about lobbies, and money, and history and they look at me like, ‘What a cop out.’ You know? I’m so tired of being a hypocrite in front of my kids.

All right, so, what I hear tonight is we have a majority of councilors who are ready to move forward with this. And, like I said, you can either shut up and get out of the way, or find a way to get behind it. And I feel like if we’re going to be moving forward with this than it’s time to do it right.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Daily Show does Morse wrong

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 3:04 PM


I'm, like, 90 percent sure that The Daily Show had no idea that the people on the 16th Street Mall in Denver were the wrong crowd to interview if you wanted to talk to those who might have voted in former Sen. John Morse's recall.

Nevertheless, Jason Jones makes a good show of highlighting the disparities between gun measures the majority of the state supported and the obviously successful recall effort.

"You could shoot yourself in the foot trying to protect other people from, uh, getting shot .. all ... over," Jones joked. 

A bit ruined for the mix-up, but not bad, I guess.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

The Gazette keeps coming at Councilman Miller

Posted By on Mon, Nov 4, 2013 at 11:41 AM

Councilor Joel Miller: under fire. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • Councilor Joel Miller: under fire.
For two months, City Councilor Joel Miller has been getting hammered by Gazette opinion-page editor Wayne Laugesen, and it's starting to get a little ridiculous. 

It began with Miller's expressed reservations about Mayor Steve Bach's City for Champions proposal, and gained steam with a Sept. 12 editorial in which Laugesen called the Councilman's objecting to how the application was created in secret "a temper tantrum." Bizarrely, the writer mocks Miller, one of but nine voices you or I have in the entire machinery of city government, for objecting that he learned about the city proposal from the local press, instead of from city staff.

This exercise continued on to Miller's Facebook page, where the councilor struck back by passive-aggressively citing "people" who want him to label the Gazette as a lapdog of the mayor, and trotted back out the widely spread rumor that former reporter Daniel Chacón was reassigned off the City Hall beat in a fit of pique from Bach. 

Laugesen then decided to incite Miller's fans/followers on the thread — where he also jabs at Miller by saying he "bent over backward convincing the board to endorse him" (which it did, as did the Indy).

After Miller listed a few attributes that he said allow him to be devoid of personal agenda in office, out came this weird charge: "The fact you don't run a business speaks volumes about your agenda," Laugesen wrote. "So does the fact you can live anywhere with an airport. It means you have no need for this community's economy to grow. If it continues to stagnate, everything stays the same for you. And if things get too unpleasant, you simply pack up and move to some other city with an airport. Nothing will change for you." 

The Gazette writer would later explain his fervor by saying he was offended at being called a lapdog — and somewhere in here local businessman Trevor Dierdorff weighed-in with a professional description of City for Champions opponents as a "bunch of haters" — but the entire exchange still left me with the exact thought as Jim Egbert: "Wayne, I'm not sure why you are publicly picking a fight with an elected official."

But the most emphatic salvo from Laugesen was still to come. "City councilman escalates absurd sabotage campaign," the Gazette yelled at Miller, again, last Thursday. It's a wobbly piece full of innuendo and repetitive arguments about Miller failing as a citizen because he doesn't own a small business, but mostly it sounds mad that Miller's still opposed to City for Champions, and acting like it.

In an emailed statement sent in response to a request for comment, the daily's opinion-page editor says all newspaper efforts are for the betterment of the city. 

"The Gazette wants Colorado Springs to grow and prosper, creating a better life for residents of the Pikes Peak region," Laugesen writes. "We will continue to weigh in on issues, advocating for better public policy. Sometimes when organizations or individuals disagree we will comment on that and when they obstruct progress, we will weigh in on that, too.

"As Gazette editorials have stated, this incarnation of City Council consists of extraordinary experience and intelligence. The editorial board believes the council could steer our community in a more positive direction and spend less time on internal bureaucracy and management details that are primarily the responsibility of our city government's executive branch. The Gazette endorsed three of the six new council members, including Councilman Miller, and hopes this council will achieve excellent results for Colorado Springs."

Other ways the Gazette has pushed for "excellent results" from Council: opposing the body's desire for its own attorney; saying it should look at Utilities' budget and leave the city to the mayor (see the comments); and generally wishing Council did better at everything. Even a Nov. 1 editorial took a crack at Council, calling its power struggle with departing City Attorney Chris Melcher "[a waste of] time and energy on internal strife."

Miller declined to comment for this post.

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lamborn plays hard to get

Posted By on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 5:14 PM

Over the summer, rumors swirled around the possibility that four-term 5th District Congressman Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, might not seek a fifth term.

Lamborn: Will he or will he not? - U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
  • U.S. House of Representatives
  • Lamborn: Will he or will he not?
The rumors were partly based on the observation that he hadn't raised much campaign money for the 2014 election. At least, not at that point. According to opensecrets.org, he has now raised nearly $122,000 and spent $102,413.

Meantime, Irv Halter, a retired Air Force general who's seeking the Democratic nomination in the 5th, has raised $121,000 and spent $37,857, opensecrets.org reports.

Another tidbit was speculation that Lamborn might give up on politics to help his wife recover from an accident, an incident confirmed by Lamborn's communications director Catherine Mortensen.

So, like any self-respecting dirt digger, we asked. First, we turned to Mortensen, Lamborn's communications director, who also handles campaign matters. But she referred us to Justin Johnson, deputy chief of staff and military legislative assistant.

We asked Johnson: "Will he seek re-election?" 

Johnson's e-mailed response: "I can confirm for you that Congressman Lamborn is not considering retiring. I can't get you anything more than that at the moment because he is on a plane to Colorado."

That was on July 25.

When the rumors again surfaced in recent days, this time with a couple of names as possible substitute candidates for Lamborn, we decided to take another run at it.

So, again, we contacted Mortensen. At first, she said via e-mail she'd have to check "to see what he put out a few months ago."

About a half-hour later, she sent us this message: "Congressman Lamborn is looking forward to making an announcement about his intentions at a later time."

Does this sound like what you'd expect from an incumbent?

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Doug Lamborn is such an embarrassment

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2013 at 11:55 AM

You and I both know the right-wing portions of this city will crow about Rep. Doug Lamborn being the only Coloradan in Washington, D.C., who was "principled" or "strong" enough to vote against Wednesday's decision to reopen the federal government.

What about those lily-livered Republican representatives Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner? Here's how they explained their voting, as noted by KDVR-TV.

“America does not default on its debt. We pay our bills," Gardner said. 

"Essentially, this proposal says we’re done fighting and we’re ready to begin an honest discussion ..." went Coffman.

From Tipton: "Today’s agreement includes positive steps to extend responsible spending reforms ..."

And here's Lamborn, joining dozens of other hard-liners in playing games with global issues on behalf of viewers like you:

My constituents are calling me with nightmare stories about skyrocketing healthcare premiums as a result of ObamaCare. Businesses are only hiring part-time workers to avoid the ObamaCare mandates and penalties. I remain committed to protecting all Americans from this oppressive law.

I don’t believe our efforts here have been in vain. We have called attention to the need to reform federal spending and to bring more fairness to ObamaCare. I remain hopeful that the fight will continue and will gain strength from the American people in the coming months and years.

I would think even those frustrated by some of the effects of the Affordable Care Act, present company included, could see that a Lamborn focused only on keeping Lamborn in office — and avoiding a primary from a Republican who could somehow manage to call himself more conservative — is not a Lamborn focused on anything else. Serving that end often helps out, say, defense companies — hence his fundraising history (not to mention donations from the National Rifle Association, as well as the Koch brothers) — but you'd better hope you're on that list. 
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