About Ken Buck’s Super Classy Obama Sighting…

Rep.-elect Ken Buck.

Rep.-elect Ken Buck.

Last Thursday, Rep.-elect Ken Buck described to his social media followers an encounter with President Barack Obama at the Washington, D.C. pizza joint We The Pizza. As you can see above, Buck had a pretty negative reaction to the mere sight of the President, which can be reasonably interpreted as not encouraging partisan gridlock-wise. You might also reasonably ask what exactly about the nation's first President of color elicits such a physical reaction from Rep.-elect Buck, to which he and his defenders will respond indignantly. Why should Buck even dignify that with a response?

Judging from just this Tweet, we expect most will have a reaction based mostly on their pre-existing view of Ken Buck. If you like him, you'll be inclined to interpret this charitably. If you don't–maybe you remember from the 2010 Senate when he said being gay is like alcoholism, or the story about that rape victim's "buyer's remorse"–you're probably doing to assume the worst.

On Facebook, it should be noted that Rep-.elect Buck elaborated a little more:

Perry and I were having lunch at We The Pizza near the Capitol before catching a plane. Secret Service shut down the restaurant and Pres Obama joined us for lunch. Obama was preceded by 20 Hispanic students for a photo op. Lost my appetite [Pols emphasis] but got a great story to share. Obama needed 35 Secret Service agents for a piece of pizza. I hope Michelle doesn't find out the Pres was eating bad food.

So, we're going to be as charitable as we feel we possibly can be, and give Buck the benefit of the doubt that the "20 Hispanic students" had nothing to do with his loss of appetite? Let's leave that at "we hope so." Some of our readers will not, and we honestly don't blame them. 

Unfortunately, there is a more basic problem here.

As the AP reports, those "20 Hispanic students" were not Hispanic.

Hours before addressing the nation on immigration, President Barack Obama left the White House for lunch.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama were taking in a midday meal with young people from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannonball, North Dakota. [Pols emphasis] They were dining on pizza and burgers at adjoining restaurants on Capitol Hill; We, The Pizza and Good Stuff Eatery.

That's right, it's the age-old pitfall for the racially insensitive, the brown skin=Hispanic fallacy! Knowing this little detail makes the charitable interpretation of Rep-elect Buck's comments we theorized above, about losing his appetite at the sight of Barack Obama and/or whatever relationship his loss of appetite may have had to those 20 Hispanic Native American students, substantially more difficult. There's really no way Buck comes out of this without some kind of ugly side in plain view–it's just a question of how ugly.

And he hasn't even been sworn in yet, folks.

Weekend Open Thread

"The truly scary thing about undiscovered lies is that they have a greater capacity to diminish us than exposed ones." 

–Cheryl Hughes

Former Governor Bill Owens Shamelessly Offers Colorado PERA Management Advice.

Governor Bill Owens, Pioneer of Colorado PERA Pension Mismanagement, Now Shamelessly Offers PERA Management Advice.

In a recent Denver Post opinion piece, former oil and gas lobbyist and Colorado Governor Bill Owens supports the latest corporate campaign attacking the Colorado PERA public pension system (11/20/2014 Denver Post):

http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_26980300/undefined?source=infinite

As per usual, corporate representatives see evil in the use of taxpayer dollars for deferred public pension compensation, but have no problem with Colorado's diversion of billions of these taxpayer dollars to unearned corporate welfare. Indeed, the elimination of the Colorado PERA public pension system would free up even more taxpayer dollars that could be targeted by corporate lobbyists. (This activity of persuading elected officials to give away public resources can be quite lucrative, see the Colorado Department of Revenue's "Colorado Tax Expenditure Report,"

https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/2012.pdf.)

In reading the recent Bill Owens Denver Post opinion piece I wondered, is the hypocrisy of Colorado politicians infinite? Do our politicians secretly compete with each other in a clandestine hypocrisy contest? Is reaching the pinnacle of hypocrisy a common life goal among politicians?

An excerpt from the Bill Owens Denver Post opinion piece:

"While PERA highlights its average retiree benefits — $3,068 monthly, according to the latest data — this statistic hides the fact that a few retirees make far more than that and the vast majority make far less. Quite simply, the benefit structure, set by the state legislature, is skewed to benefit a minority of public employees at the expense of the rest."

My reaction: This is rich. Bill Owens laments the fact that some Colorado PERA members receive greater public pension benefits than others. Allow me to explain the hypocrisy I see associated with Bill Owens' "concerns."

While in office more than a decade ago, Bill Owens championed the "Bill Owens Colorado PERA Service Credit Fire Sale" scheme (HB00-1458.) Service credit (years of service) in the Colorado PERA pension system were sold, at his urging, at a fraction of their actuarial cost. This Bill Owens scheme represents perhaps the most consequential pension mismanagement event in the history of the Colorado PERA pension system. This mismanagement increased the Colorado PERA pension system's unfunded liabilities (and thus contractual obligations borne by Colorado taxpayers) by billions of dollars. I do not blame Colorado PERA members for taking advantage of this opportunity made available to them in Colorado law at the time. (Indeed, representatives of the Colorado PERA pension system encouraged PERA members to make purchases of "service credit" in those years.) I blame elected officials and members of the Colorado PERA Board of Trustees for acquiescing to this fiscally irresponsible, political ploy. Under the "service credit purchase" scheme, a number of Colorado state legislators (including Bill's political buddies?) were able to buy years of service credit in the Colorado PERA pension plan on the cheap. They then, conveniently, found themselves moving from low-paying state legislative positions to lucrative appointments in the Administration. Thus, their ultimate Colorado PERA retirement benefit was calculated based on the higher final salaries of jobs in the Administration. Since Bill Owens was the prime mover behind this "Colorado PERA Service Credit Fire Sale," I find it astoundingly hypocritical that Bill Owens now has the temerity to complain about the fair distribution of Colorado PERA retiree benefits.

While Governor, Bill Owens persuaded (pressured?) the Colorado PERA Board of Trustees to endorse his "service credit fire sale" scheme, which they obediently and unanimously supported. Bill Owens' goal, at the time, was to rid Colorado state and local government of "expensive" older employees, encouraging them to buy these cheap years of "service credit" and qualify for early retirement. Thus, public employee labor costs were shifted from state and local governments to the Colorado PERA pension system, raising system unfunded liabilities.

The Colorado Supreme Court recently decided to ignore the evidence of Bill Owens' mismanagement of Colorado PERA (and in fact all evidence in a Colorado PERA pension lawsuit) in order to facilitate a reduction of Colorado PERA's unfunded liabilities through breach of contract. Of course, the Colorado Supreme Court necessarily ignored the Colorado and US Constitutions in the process. This transparent political favor provided by the Colorado Supreme Court (to the Colorado Legislative Branch) has tarnished the Colorado Judiciary, and diminished the careers of Colorado judges who actually believe in the Rule of Law. In reading the Decision in the case, Justus v. State, judges on the Colorado Court of Appeals see the true colors of the politically motivated Colorado Supreme Court. If the Colorado PERA pension system had been responsibly managed by past Colorado state legislators and Governors, the Colorado Supreme Court would never have found itself in a position where it was tempted to abandon constitutional principles, Colorado case law, and its integrity.

Given his history, Bill Owens' recent posturing in the Denver Post as a person even remotely qualified to offer public pension management advice lends insight into his character.

An astute observer has noted that:

"Owens dipped into PERA funds through the back door, moving state employees at the top ends of the pay grades from state paychecks to PERA paychecks. In other words, Owens reduced state costs by shifting them to PERA at the same time he reduced the state's contribution percentage, starting the slide from 107% funded to current levels. Granted the slide was accelerated by the economic downturn, but it began when the state figured out how to supplement the general fund by raiding PERA. Last year's SB-1, if upheld by the court opens the front door to PERA resources. Now, any time legislators decide they need PERA funds, they can pay for reducing further the state's contribution by reducing benefits."

(For the record, we should also note that Colorado's public sector union leaders, in supporting SB-1, held open "the SB-1 front door" for Colorado state legislators. In an unprecedented act, in 2010 these union leaders facilitated the elimination of the contractual public pension rights of their own public employee members.)

It may be that (fair or unfair) media coverage during the Owens Administration diverted attention from the responsible management of the Colorado PERA pension system. But, if media reports and blogger comments from that period of Colorado history reflect reality, the hypocrisy of our GOP "family values" Governor extends well beyond the realm of public pension management.

Ed Quillen:

"Owens moved out of the governor's mansion for a while because he and his wife, Frances, had agreed on a separation. Then they reconciled. After he left office, they divorced. There were all sorts of juicy rumors, among them one about a love child growing up in Texas, but if anyone called for Owens to resign, I missed it."

"This may have stalled Owens's national political career, which had looked promising. One right-thinking publication had touted him as America's best governor and there was serious talk of the vice-presidency or even the Oval Office."

http://edquillen.com/eq2008/20080316p.html

Free Republic:

"Owens, a devout Catholic, has touted family values as a cornerstone of his administration. Some immediately questioned what impact it would have on Owens' political career if the couple were to divorce. Owens has been mentioned by conservative Republicans as a potential presidential candidate, even though he has never publicly said he is interested in running."

Comments on the article published at FreeRepublic.com:

"I have always heard that this guy is ultra career minded. He has a PAC in Washington right now, presumably to set up his 08 bid. He also chaired the GOP Gov's Conference, and was an officer with the National Governor's Association."

"Gang, Governor Owens has had an on-going affair for many, many years. It is well known in Republican circles. You can be sure that no high ranking Republican would encourage Bill to pursue any sort of public office under any circumstances. The Party is reeling from a record number of scandals in the ethics area and is quietly getting rid of the worst offenders. You will begin to see Republicans focusing less on family values and more on fiscal and governing issues. One thing the party has realized is that a large percentage of those who loudly tout family values are the worst offenders. Please pray for Frances and the kids, all of whom spent many years home alone. Believe me, they won’t notice much of a difference after the separation."

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/977510/posts

"Hmmm, obviously these Owens fans aren't from Colorado. It's quite well known here that Owens' personal picadillos [sic] make Bill Clinton look like a saint."

http://www.usefulwork.com/shark/archives/002796.html

Conservative Columnist Vince Carroll of the Denver Post Condemns the "Bill Owens PERA Service Credit Fire Sale," July 31, 2013 Denver Post:

"The administration of Gov. Bill Owens, in a major blunder, lobbied for the fire sale as a shortsighted way to encourage early retirement and infuse new blood into the bureaucracy."

"Guessing the answer, I asked (Congressman Mike) Coffman if he had purchased years of service from PERA once upon a time. And, sure enough, he replied, 'I did purchase years of service.'"

http://www.denverpost.com/carroll/ci_23762597/carroll-secret-rep-mike-coffmans-pera-pension

(Governor Owens, Rep. Coffman has admitted to participating in your PERA "service credit fire sale" by buying years of service credit. You have a chance to be as forthright as Rep. Coffman and answer the question. Did you purchase PERA service credit in the "fire sale" yourself?)

WatchDogWire.com:

"As (Vince) Carroll notes, this problem was known as early as 2005, when David Milstead of the late, lamented Rocky wrote about it: 'But the deal got sweeter. Gov. Bill Owens, then in the early part of his first term, wanted to streamline government and bring new employees into the state work force. In 2000, with his encouragement – some say pressure – PERA cut the already-low price of purchasing extra years by 14 percent, to 15.5 percent of salary.'"

http://watchdogwire.com/colorado/2013/08/01/the-pera-fire-sale-the-gift-that-keeps-on-taking/

"Colorado’s state income tax rate was a flat 5 percent until it was lowered to 4.75 percent in 1999 and to 4.63 percent in 2000, under Gov. Bill Owens."

http://completecolorado.com/pagetwo/2013/06/12/ed-tax-proponents-will-aim-for-two-tiered-increase-in-state-income-tax/

Silver and Gold Record, May 12, 2005:

“Befort also noted that several years ago, the Legislature and Gov. Bill Owens decided to encourage higher-paid employees to retire early. Payroll expenses went down for the state, but PERA’s costs increased, he explained.”

https://www.cu.edu/sg/messages/4405.html

Friends of PERA (an organization that supported SB10-001) in "PERA Quick Facts":

"Laws passed in 1999 and 2000 to reduce the cost to purchase years of service and to provide for earlier retirement were initiated by Governor Owens' office and legislators who wanted to encourage long-term state employees to retire. At the same time that the benefit rules were made better, the employer contribution rates were reduced and the rate employees paid remained the same. These changes were made by the Executive and Legislative branches, not by the PERA board.”

http://www.friendsofpera.com/facts/index.html

CASB:

"(Henry) Sobanet also served under former Gov. Bill Owens and was intimately involved in the crafting of SB10-001, the bill passed in 2010 to shore up PERA."

http://www.casb.org/event/casb-annual-convention/saturday-sessions

Denver Post:

"Hickenlooper, a Democrat, named Henry Sobanet, formerly a budget director for Republican Gov. Bill Owens to do the same job for him."

"Sobanet worked for the Office of State Planning Budgeting as deputy director from 1999 to 2004, when former Owens appointed him as director."

http://blogs.denverpost.com/thespot/2011/01/04/hickenlooper-names-former-owens-budget-director-henry-sobanet-to-same-job/20061/

Governing article in 2006:

"In Colorado, at least some of Bill Owens' pension problem was self-inflicted, the result of his pressuring PERA to sell discounted 'service credits' to public employees, allowing them to buy more time on the job."  "Owens hoped that state employees would retire early, helping his efforts to streamline government." "Because pensions are, by their nature, a long-term problem, it's difficult to get public officials–classic short-term thinkers–to pay them serious attention even when the bills are coming due."

http://www.governing.com/topics/economic-dev/Plight-Benefits.html

GAO report, the Colorado Legislature Has Increased Colorado PERA Pension Benefits Without Paying for These Benefits:

"This was also the case in California and Colorado where pension benefit increases in the late 1990s and early in the 2000s helped drive liabilities higher."

From Friends of PERA:

"PERA has been fully funded only two years in its 75-year history – in 1999 and 2000. When it was fully funded, Governor Owens immediately pursued cutting the employer contribution rate and unwisely pushed the Board of Trustees very strongly to reduce the cost to purchase service credit. This action resulted in a very large unfunded liability increase to the fund. When PERA tried to pursue legislative changes to remedy the situation, Governor Owens vetoed the legislation because it did not include a 'defined contribution option' for state employees."

http://www.friendsofpera.com/facts/index.html

The complete story can be read here at the Denver Post:

http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_26980300/undefined?source=infinite

Discover the true nature of Colorado government at saveperacola.com.

Latinos Slam Hickenlooper’s “Path To Citizenship” Dismissal

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports, the controversy over Gov. John Hickenlooper's remarks earlier this week, in which he appeared to dismiss the aspirations of immigrants to obtain American citizenship, appears to be growing. After giving Hickenlooper a suitable period to retract his comments, the Colorado Latino Forum has run out of patience, issuing a strongly-worded statement this afternoon:

As the nation's Hispanic community Friday celebrated President Obama's executive order sparing 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, Colorado Latinos expressed their frustration with another politician — the state's Democratic governor…

"The Colorado Latino Forum is extremely disappointed in Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's recent statement regarding Latinos and citizenship," the statement began.

"The Colorado Latino Forum has long underscored that access to a path to citizenship is a key value that must be included in any meaningful future comprehensive immigration reform package that Congress debates.

"We are disappointed that immediately following his narrow re-election in which our community voted overwhelmingly for Governor Hickenlooper, his first comments regarding Latino issues demonstrate that he is out of touch with our community's priorities and values."

What we've heard is that just about every Latino interest and immigrant rights group in the state has called Gov. Hickenlooper's office to express their displeasure over what he said, and there has been no satisfactory response. The fact is, an eventual pathway to American citizenship for otherwise law-abiding, long term immigrants is a central goal of immigration reform proponents–who are deeply skeptical of the various "guest worker" programs that have been proposed as alternatives. We don't think Hickenlooper was trying to disparage immigrants' motives, but his statement that the "vast majority" of immigrants simply want to "get paid over the table" and "don't care about a pathway to citizenship" could be interpreted disparagingly. Either way, it's directly at odds with what immigration reformers are advocating for.

Whatever his intentions, this comment — and a wealthy, white politician purporting to tell a minority community what they really want — isn’t sitting well with Colorado’s Latino community…

Bottom line: the pressure may be off Hickenlooper electorally for four years, but since his re-election we've been wondering if that might result in more rigorous accountability from his left–on a variety of issues where Hickenlooper has run afoul of base Democrats, or even good politics. There has been a tendency this election season to pull punches on Hickenlooper, so as to not assist Bob Beauprez's campaign.

As of today, it looks like Hickenlooper's second honeymoon is over.

GOP Responds to Obama Immigration Action…With Lawsuit About Healthcare

We wrote earlier this week about the immigration issue and President Barack Obama's pending executive order to address the topic as Congress refuses to act. Here's the final paragraph from our post on Wednesday:

There's no way around it for the GOP: When they take control of both the House and Senate in January, they can either move forward with immigration reform or not. There is nobody left for Republicans to blame if they don't take action themselves. The GOP painted themselves into a corner with inaction on immigration, and the only way out is to make their own footprints. Ultimately, if Republicans don't actually move on the issue, 2016 voters aren't going to care why they failed to act with their Congressional majority — as Yoda might say, there is only "do" or "do not."

Facepalm city in Congress

Sigh. As CNN reports, House Speaker John Boehner just…WTF?

House Speaker John Boehner said Friday he has sued the Obama Administration in federal court over its decisions to make changes to the President's health care law, which congressional Republicans argue were unconstitutional.

The move was expected for months — the GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted to approve the lawsuit in July. But Boehner had trouble retaining a law firm that would take the case because of the political furor over the controversial health care law…

…News of the lawsuit came just minutes after Boehner held a press conference on Friday to respond to the President's plan to circumvent Congress in order to make sweeping changes to the nation's immigration system by executive order.

The one-two punch from Boehner marks a new era of tension between Republicans who will officially take over Congress in January, and the President who has signaled that despite his party's losses in the midterms, he plans to proceed with his agenda without GOP cooperation. [Pols emphasis]

As CNN points out, Boehner struck out — twice — on trying to find a law firm to sue over Obamacare until convincing a George Washington law professor to take the case. But the very fact that Republicans would allow this lawsuit to become their de-facto response to Obama's executive order on immigration absolutely boggles the mind.

Aside from making some folks in the Tea Party happy, what do Republicans possibly think they can accomplish here?

Get a Handle on Colorado’s Fiscal Challenges With ’12 Charts’

As legislators begin to write the budget, state economists are projecting that General Fund revenues will exceed the TABOR/Ref C limit. It has been more than a decade since Colorado last hit the TABOR limit, but the consequences are clear: Colorado will be returning tax dollars before restoring the cuts made to vital services.

This is not a new problem in our state, and it's not the first time we've weighed in and said we need to have a statewide conversation about both our fiscal challenges and the kind of state we want to be. But this seems like a good time to say it again. And we've brought visual aids — Colorado's Fiscal Challenges — in 12 Charts.

Structural problems in the state's tax code increasingly undermine the state's ability to support the public structures that underpin our quality of life. From a flat income tax that does not capture significant tax revenue from the highest income brackets to an obsolete sales tax structure, Colorado's fiscal structures need a tune-up. With TABOR rebates on the horizon, we believe a statewide conversation must start with renewed energy. We hope our 12 Charts educate and engage decision-makers, advocates and allies to address both our unavoidable short-term challenges and our impending long-term ones.

 We think these charts tell a compelling story – that Colorado must act now to preserve its high quality of life.
 

 

Who Did The Shutdown Hurt Most? Colorado Springs.

militarymoney

As the Colorado Springs Gazette's Wayne Heilman reports–we've talked at length in this space about the harm done to Colorado's economy during the GOP-engineered shutdown of the federal government in October of 2013. At one point late last year, it seemed as though the shutdown was going to do real damage to Republican electoral prospects in 2014. The issue did come up in the recent elections, but the principal target Rep. Cory Gardner overcame whatever damage those ads may have done.

In tourism-dependent communities like Estes Park, the shutdown of the national parks cost the local economy millions of dollars from cancelled bookings. The shutdown resulted in some delays in the federal government's response to the devastating September flooding along the Front Range. And, says the Gazette today, furloughed soldiers and federal employees in government-heavy Colorado Springs lost income, which cost the entire region economically:

The area's income per person rose just 0.2 percent, or $81, from 2012 to $41,250, according to a report released Thursday by the agency. In 2012, per-person income rose 2.1 percent from 2011.

The national average for 2013 was $44,785; the Colorado Springs number is $3,535, or 7.9 percent, lower – the biggest gap between local incomes and the national average in data since 1969.

The prime reason for the area's poor showing: a $110.8 million decline in earnings by military personnel and civilian federal employees, largely the result of furloughs and other cost-cutting measures put into place during the federal government shutdown in October 2013.

The area has about 36,000 troops on active duty and 13,500 federal civilian workers. About half of the civilians were off the job without pay during the shutdown.

The irony of staunchly Republican El Paso County taking one of the hardest hits from the October 2013 shutdown is obvious. And the numbers don't lie: this is a much bigger economic hit than Colorado's tourism economy took. That this clearly destructive and preventable action did not have any discernable impact on the 2014 elections, either in El Paso County or across the state in the U.S. Senate race, reflects one of the great conundrums of American politics today (see: Thomas Frank's What's The Matter With Kansas?).

We don't have the solution, but here is one of the clearest examples of the problem you're likely to ever see.

People Testify to Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force

 "Our children should not be expected to be test subjects," said Angela Kirkpatrick, mother to a Greeley elementary school student. Greeley has allowed numerous oil and gas wells next to public schools, even while  COGCC (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) admits that there are "data gaps", and no long term health studies about the effects of breathing benzene and methane on children's health.

In Loveland, Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper's Oil and Gas Task Force heard public comments from noon until 8 pm. I took notes on the last hour and a half of the public comments. Around four hundred people packed the Meeker Building in the Ranch Events complex, to listen and to speak.

(Below, fracking rig located next to Greeley Weld School District 6 stadium in Greeley, CO)

Testimony that I heard ran about 2:1 for slowing oil and gas production until public health impacts are known, for stronger regulation and enforcement, and for  communities to control how much oil and gas production they will allow. The tradeoff in quality of life vs. the economic boom was a continuing theme. Many expressed concern about earthquakes in Weld County, probably caused by injection of fracking fluids under pressure. Audio links to public comment are here and here

Denver Post "Colorado oil, gas task force gets earful from elected officials" by Mark Jaffe

Durango Herald article, "Gas and Oil Task Force Looks at Local Control, "by Peter Marcus

Greeley Tribune article (behind paywall)

My notes on public comments:

"Privatizing the profits, socializing the costs" – Martin Lind

Maydean Worley: Northridge HS site in Greeley, with leaks near the school. At the proposed elementary school site, the drilling company was "stunned into silence" when residents requested an air quality monitor.

Nick Johnson: concerned member of Lafayette community. (which voted to ban fracking) " We understand that it's an economic boon – we also understand that it's a public health issue.We need to give more authority to our local communities."

What is being proposed is a land plan- set up land use standards before communities are built. – He's talking about how earthen berms were built to shield neighborhoods from noise and . (unknown speaker)

Rod Brueske – This commission, if they want to have legitimacy, needs to have a grand jury investigation of the COGCC, COGA, b/c of their interpretation of state regulations. These orgs have allowed reduced or no fines or fees for violations. They are acting with criminal negligence, and I highly recommend an investigation of this pattern of violations.

Jennifer ? – personal story about living next to holding tanks. I feel that I live in an industrial area now. Lights, sound, natural gas, open flames, truck traffic. Ugly, smelly, bright, noisy. Little info about long term exposure – I feel that my family are test subjects.

Shane Davis: I’m a miner. There are epic failures of the state and COGCC to abide by its mission . 40% of all spills in Weld County have already resulted in groundwater contamination. And contamination statewide.  You have to look at the failures to know what you have to do in order to keep them from happening again.  Please recuse yourselves because of a conflict of interest.

Mizraim Cordero: C3, representing business interests across the state. Mission is to keep state’s economy going. All industries, ag, construction, etc, not just oil/gas. Much discussion about local control. Regulating business on a municipal level results in unstable and inconsistent policies. “Patchwork of regulations”.

Chris Guttormsson

Property rights, mineral rights, etc. People don’t understand who actually owns the minerals. They don’t have control of surface. When you make recommendations, please consider helping public be better informed on this.

Dr. Judith Boyle I live in Highland Farms. I’m not against anyone’s right to develop their minerals. I am disturbed by the increased rampant drilling which seems to be happening without apparent forethought or a plan in place.  Regulations of oil and gas haven’t kept up with the technology. EX horizontal drilling.

Kristen Allen – homeowner in Windsor. Near proposed site with drilling within 500’ of people’s homes. Impact on their property values was negative per realtor’s appraisal when they wanted to sell.

Earl Pittman: – I’m Republican, pro-drilling. Brags about how low his gas mileage is.  I ask the task force to recommend local control. (cites long numbered rule). Great Western is the driller at issue. Colo State Dept of Health wants GW to move well site away from residents, but GW is ignoring it. It’s not a political issue, it’s a safety issue, and quality of life issue. They’ve lost our trust.

Robert Winkler: risk management consultant: I’m concerned about health and quality of life issues associated w oil and gas development.  We’ve voiced our concerns to local officials. They are unwilling to evaluate independent research data. Please recommend a comprehensive health impact assessment at the next legislative session.

Maggie Burns: sharing a story.  Grew up on Western slope. Economics does matter. There is a way to balance the interests of health and all the other concerns, but don’t forget that economics matters.

Andrew Browning: with Consumer Energy Alliance. We’re a national organization. We want to increase production of domestic energy, to promote jobs and increase energy security. Banning energy production not viable, not collaborative, bla bla.

Steven Olson: Loveland resident. Lot of rhetoric, movie Gasland was sensational, misleading. Loveland energy project, pro-development group. Technology has advanced to enable safe and responsible development.

Karen Dike: Retired RN from Loveland. Here on behalf of my grandchildren. Gov Hickenlooper, you are making those of us who live in Colorado into lab rats for the oil and gas industry. You are asking us to prove that breathing benzene, methane, et, are not harmful to our children. Your moral and ethical responsibility is to …..It is time to say enough to this industry.

Steve Juhan  My grandfather did a lot of mining and development. Long-ass bio, with no discernible point.  Oil and gas creates jobs. Thank you.

Michelle Smith -  I’m on the board of (two organizations) runs an organic farm. We are losing small farmers in CO. Our hay costs tripled.  Leasing our mineral costs 2X helped us pay for our hay. Better education on MOU is the answer. Property rights should be respected.

Michael Lozinski  Disgruntled homeowner in Firestone area. Noise level was unbearable. I support America being self-reliant, but we can’t do it being irresponsible. COGCC didn’t do anything to ENCANA. I’m a homeowner without any rights. Rules are not enforced. This favors big oil. Need to fix COGCC so they will enforce the rules.

Kaye Fissinger from Longmont. President of Our Health, Our Future. In reading the directive, B1 and B2 has made health and wildlife subservient to the interests of the oil and gas industry. This is a moral issue. A constitutional and statutory and regulatory error. Task force has an opportunity to correct these wrongs.  Can make regulations more stringent than those adopted by local government. Should be able to place moratoria as Longmont did.

Judith Blackburn –  Also from Longmont, a “ban promoter”. Current laws and precedents need to be challenged. Because its legal doesn’t mean that its right. It’s impossible to promote oil and gas and still protect the rights of workers and neighbors. Disingenuous ads from energy companies do not promote trust. Questions of inspection and enforcement aside, we are all in some sort of experiment here. No one knows the long term effects…….

David Quave  During the oil embargo, I learned how important it is to be energy independent. When I moved, I loved working my farm, living in nature, safe haven. I propose that we all work together for optimal pad placements, respect rights of surface and mineral rights owners.  I want to enjoy sitting on my porch.

John Clarke: Former Larimer County Commissioner, former Ft Collins —- No municipality has tools they need to properly regulate oil and gas. Costs to taxpayers would be high. Talks a lot, says little. Fracking is just like construction. Right…..

 Ken Stone:  I work for a local O&G production co. Story of his life. Without O&G production, this economy won’t hold up.

Angela Kirkpatrick parent of a Greeley elementary school student. COGCC agrees that there are “data gaps” which “warrant further study”. We know the effects of benzene. Children are more vulnerable. The effects of being exposed to multiple volatile compounds are still unknown. Our children should not be expected to be test subjects. It’s COGCC’s responsibility to prove to safe to the community. It is not the community’s responsibility to prove that it’s safe to the COGCC.

Tim Reams from Earth Guardians. We need to know what the fracking chemicals are. When there is demonstrated risk to health standards, shut the wells down. There is violation after violation, one company 70 different times. When the state is not doing its job, local communities have to have the private right of action. This guy got the most applause of anyone yet, prompting a stern “no applause” warning from the moderator.

I took video of the last half hour of testimony, and will add it to this diary as time permits.

The task force will continue meeting  today, Friday, November 21, until 12 pm. The task force is  expected to recommend legislation in the next legislative session.

The public made its wishes known. Overwhelmingly, people want public health and quality of life prioritized over oil and gas profits. We know that the task force members will listen, as they did just that for over twenty hours so far. But will they hear? And hearing, will they act to protect public health and the environment?

Will public concerns about health and quality of life have a greater impact on policy than energy dollars? That remains to be seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ken Buck Really Doesn’t Like President Obama

As Tweeted earlier today–a little ad hominem, don't you think?

We get that Rep-elect Ken Buck was not elected on a Barack Obama lovefest platform, but they ought to be able to eat pizza in the same pizza joint, right? Not that we should have expected much better from Colorado's most rightmost member of Congress by a mile, but a little pretend comity would probably help the two of them, you know, run the country.

We're just saying.

Lamborn’s Latest: Free Trade=Forced Trade!

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

A press release this week from Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, famous for his almost total inability to pass legislation in Congress, announces his latest big idea:

Today I introduced H.R 5727 to thwart efforts by Palestinian organizations to pressure different corporations, companies and educational institutions to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel. Sadly, just yesterday we heard that some in the European Union are drafting new regulations with a similar aim. These attacks and the falsehoods being spread about Israel are harmful to any honest effort to bring peace to the region.
 
My bill will require that any prospective contractors with the U.S. Government will certify that they are not boycotting a country with which the U.S. has a free trade agreement. The bill also includes penalties for false certifications, including the ability to ban companies that breach its parameters from doing future business with the U.S. Government. Our government business practices should not play any role in harming our greatest ally in the Middle East.
 
Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, a place where all men and women enjoy freedom regardless of their faith or ethnicity. In fact Jewish owned factories and companies in Israel and in Judea and Samaria are among the chief employers of the Palestinian community. Palestinian workers get equal pay and equal treatment and enjoy benefits.

We respect the great sensitivity of the debate over Israel and the occupied territories under her control inhabited by Palestinian Arabs. Setting that aside for a moment, it's worth noting that the United States has free trade agreements was many more nations than Israel, who would presumably also be shielded from boycotts by American companies also doing business with the federal government under Lamborn's bill. So everyone's clear, that includes the free trade agreements in place today between the United States and Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jordan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Peru, and Singapore. There is also a pending trade agreement with many more nations proposed as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

So, next time the King of Bahrain decides it's time to brutally crush a protest movement, or things get nasty in Nicaragua again human rights-wise, or Singapore breaks out the rattan cane on another punk American vandal…no boycotts, folks! And to make sure the greatest possible chilling effect is achieved, Lamborn's bill is worded broadly to ensure both federal contractors and anyone "owned or controlled by the [contractor] is not a 'boycotting person.'" Which could cover a lot of people unrelated to the federal contract in question.

Bottom line: it's another in-all-likelihood stillborn bad idea from Doug Lamborn–so bad, in fact, that we think he may have actually thought of it himself as opposed to it being written by a lobbyist.

Hickenlooper Unfiltered Again–The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

As Americans wait to hear from President Barack Obama this evening on the subject of immigration reform executive orders, the Wall Street Journal interviewed Colorado's recently re-elected Gov. John Hickenlooper yesterday–and some of Hickenlooper's remarks are raising eyebrows today. As reported by WSJ's Reid Epstein, Hick began with some indirect criticism of Sen. Mark Udall's unsuccessful re-election campaign that we think is shared by many Democrats:

“We stayed on the economy the whole time,” he told Wall Street Journal reporters and editors Wednesday. “We kept coming back to the economy. These are objective sources ranking state economies across the country and we are in the top four of every major assessment.”

Mr. Hickenlooper’s victory explanation came as an inherent rebuke to Mr. Udall, who lost to Republican Rep. Cory Gardner after running a heavily negative campaign focused on social issues. Mr. Udall skipped an appearance on his behalf at a Denver fundraiser – and Mr. Hickenlooper said it was a mistake to reject a visit from the president of the United States.

“My gosh, the president of the United States calls you and you’re going to say ‘No,’?” Mr. Hickenlooper said. “The president of the United States calls and asks for your time, I think generally you should find a way to do it.”

We wanted to start with this comment from Hickenlooper about Mark Udall's decision to avoid President Obama even as Obama campaigned in Colorado on Udall's behalf, because we think it's dead-on. In retrospect, we do not believe that hiding from Obama helped Udall in the least. On the contrary, the Democratic base cheered pictures of Hickenlooper and the President shooting pool together at the Wynkoop Brewery.

The consensus view since the election is that Udall's intense focus on abortion and women's reproductive issues–particularly when that came at the expense of articulating Udall's own case for re-election–was a major strategic blunder. Hickenlooper was criticized during the campaign for refusing to "go negative" against his opponent, who had an enormous wealth of negatives to work with. Instead, Hickenlooper stayed positive, focused on the state's strong economy recovery, and in the end was vindicated by re-election in a very strong Republican year.

So there's that, and we think a lot of readers will agree. But then Hickenlooper turns to the issue of immigration, apropos with Obama's announcement coming tonight. And Democrats waiting nervously since the election can reset their counters–the number of days without a major trip off the proverbial reservation by Hickenlooper is once again zero:

Immigration: Mr. Hickenlooper predicted Mr. Obama’s executive action, to be announced Thursday, will “be very combustible.” He proposed that instead of pushing Congress to enact last year’s Senate legislation, the White House should give up on the path to citizenship that has most inflamed opponents to an immigration overhaul.

“What’s amazing to me is, a lot of young Latinos, the vast majority don’t care about a pathway to citizenship,” Mr. Hickenlooper said. “They want to be able to get on an airplane and get down to Mexico City and visit their grandparents. And they want to get a job and be able to get paid over the table. Why don’t we just take the pathway to citizenship and say, ‘We’re not going to worry about it.’ Let’s have a robust guest worker system where everybody gets five years and we secure the border and we actually hold business accountable if they’re going to pay people under the table.”

There's really no way to spin these comments. Immigration reform advocates we've heard from are absolutely furious over the suggestion that "the vast majority" of immigrants don't want a pathway to citizenship. We don't think Hickenlooper intended this, but these comments could be interpreted as demeaning to the many immigrants who most certainly do want to become American citizens, and who have served as the face of the immigration reform movement for many years. Frankly, we'd like to know more about where Hickenlooper got this stuff, but in the meantime there seems to be consensus that these comments were not helpful to the larger goal of enacting comprehensive immigration reform.

We're watching, as we've seen with previous "Hickengaffes," to see this promptly walked back.

Election Day Sets New Traffic Record at Colorado Pols

We forgot to mention this earlier, but Election Day broke a four-year-old record for a single day of visitors at Colorado Pols. On Nov. 4, Colorado Pols attracted 16,632 unique visitors, surpassing the previous record set on Election Day 2010.

For the entire year, we are getting close to surpassing 1 million unique visitors.

Thank you — all of you — for your continued support of Colorado Pols. It's hard to believe, but we'll be celebrating our 10th birthday in December! We couldn't do it without you.