Colorado PERA is Concerned About Legal Protection of Benefits in non-PERA Colorado Pension Systems. Why?

Recently, a number of Colorado PERA retirees sent emails to members of the Colorado Legislature expressing concern regarding the Legislature's failure to pay the full "actuarial required contributions" (ARC) to the Colorado PERA pension system since 2003, i.e., pay the pension system's bills. The Legislature's failure to pay the Colorado PERA pension system ARC for the last decade has racked up the PERA pension system's debt. (Note that simply placing Colorado PERA employee and employer contribution rates in Colorado law IS NOT THE EQUIVALENT of paying the Colorado PERA pension system's "actuarially required contribution" as calculated by Colorado PERA's actuaries.)

The Colorado PERA retirees, in their e-mail, highlighted past statements from Colorado PERA officials lamenting the failure of the Colorado Legislature to pay the pension system's bills.

http://www.patsteadman.com/

On August 11, 2009, at the Denver meeting of the Colorado PERA “Listening Tour” Colorado PERA’s (then) General Counsel Greg Smith commented on the decline of PERA’s actuarial funded ratio: “We have not been paid what’s called the actuarially required contribution.” “We’ve not been receiving that full contribution in any of our divisions for many years . . . seven years to be specific.” Link:

http://www.copera.org/pera/about/listeningtour.htm

On February 23, 2012 (then) Colorado PERA General Manager Meredith Williams, before the Colorado House Finance Committee, testified relating to the Legislature’s historical underfunding of its PERA pension obligations, i.e., the failure of the Legislature to ensure payment of the ARC through appropriate statutory contribution rates, or supplemental appropriations. Colorado PERA General Manager Meredith Williams: “We’ve had a significant problem over the years, in that . . . contributions, payments by (PERA) employers into PERA have been kind of the last thing in the budget building process, and we have not made the required payments. Unfortunately, in our line of work, where we’re involved in compounding shortfalls grow, particularly when the shortfalls continue year after year after year.”

Colorado Senator Pat Steadman (a member of the Colorado Joint Budget Committee) should be commended for recently responding to the PERA retiree's e-mail, and stating that he is committed to doing what he can to protect Colorado public employee pension systems in the future.

Senator Steadman should also be commended for placing language into Colorado law (in 2012, SB12-149) that protects accrued benefits in Colorado's county-run public pension systems.

The statutory language protecting accrued benefits in Colorado county-run pension systems, that was sponsored by Senator Steadman, and adopted by the Colorado Legislature, DOES NOT apply to accrued benefits in the Colorado PERA pension system.

Senator Steadman, why not seek similar legal protection of accrued benefits for members of the Colorado PERA pension system? I have no doubt that Senator Steadman would agree that the labor of Colorado public servants who are members of the Colorado PERA pension system is as valuable as the labor of Colorado public servants who are members of Colorado's county-run public pension systems.

I propose that similar language be placed into Colorado law providing such legal protection for accrued Colorado PERA pension benefits.

Public records (recordings) of legislative testimony on SB12-149 reveal that, at Senator Pat Steadman's "stakeholder" meetings for the development of SB12-149, Colorado PERA officials opposed the placement of a test for "actuarial necessity" for reduction of accrued pension benefits in county-run pension systems into Colorado law.

Why were Colorado PERA officials present at these SB12-149 stakeholder meetings that addressed vested pension rights in Colorado's county-run public pension plans?  (Separate from Colorado PERA.) Why do Colorado PERA officials care about statutes relating to vested rights in Colorado public pension plans other than their own?

Why did Colorado PERA officials oppose the placement of a test for "actuarial necessity" into Colorado law at these meetings? Why are Colorado PERA officials so concerned about placing a test for "actuarial necessity" into Colorado law?

Senator Pat Steadman's emailed response to a Colorado PERA retiree:

"Dear Randy,

Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns about adequate funding of our PERA system. Last session, I sponsored a bill on behalf of the Joint Budget Committee that required our personnel director to contract a third party compensation consulting firm with actuarial expertise to study the overall effectiveness and health of our PERA compensation system. This will allow us to assess the ongoing sustainability of PERA and adjust the appropriations towards the program. I am adding a link to the entire bill here for your review:

http://www.leg.state.co.us/clics/clics2014a/csl.nsf/fsbillcont2/DE9404F7F0E17CC587257C600001DF7C/$FILE/214_01.pdf

The bill was signed by the governor and is currently being implemented. As you can see in the legislation’s language, the full report is due on January 15, 2015.

Please know that I share your concerns about the health of our public employee pension systems and that I am committed to doing what I can to protect it for the future.

I remain available to hear your concerns and answer any questions you may have.

I have added you to my e-mail list to keep you updated about this and other legislative matters relevant to you. You can opt-out of these at any time.

Regards,

Pat Steadman

State Senate, District 31"

Colorado Senator Pat Steadman is responsible for placing language into Colorado law that protects vested benefits in Colorado county-run public pension systems (no such statutory protection for Colorado PERA members.) In Senator Steadman's bill, the Colorado Legislature  demonstrated that it is capable of adopting prospective pension reforms (honoring accrued benefits) in county government pension systems (county governments are "arms" of Colorado state government) and honoring Colorado retiree pension contracts. The 2010 Colorado PERA "COLA-taking" bill, SB10-001, was "retrospective" in its operation, taking back benefits already earned.

Language from SB12-149:

“(3) ANY MODIFICATION PURSUANT TO SUBSECTION (2) OF THIS SECTION SHALL NOT ADVERSELY AFFECT VESTED BENEFITS ALREADY ACCRUED BY MEMBERS OF SUCH DEFINED BENEFIT PLAN OR SYSTEM, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE PENSION BENEFITS OF RETIRED MEMBERS OR MEMBERS ELIGIBLE TO RETIRE AS OF THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THE MODIFICATION, UNLESS OTHERWISE PERMITTED UNDER OR REQUIRED BY COLORADO OR FEDERAL LAW.”

From the Senate Finance meeting summary for SB12-149, March 13, 2012:

“02:20 PM — Senate Bill 12-149

Senator Steadman, prime sponsor, presented Senate Bill 12-149 concerning allowing local government pension plan boards to make modifications to defined benefit plans. Senator Steadman stated that the bill impacts defined benefit plans in five counties in Colorado: Adams County, Arapahoe County, El Paso County, Pueblo County, and Weld County.

(Public pension attorney) Cindy Birley before the Senate Finance Committee:

“We did have . . . in initial drafts of the bill, we had a numerical test (a percent funded ratio threshold) . . .”.

“We met in Senator Steadman’s office . . ., at a reception that Senator Steadman had for stakeholders on January 9th, and we met with representatives from PERA, Colorado WINS, AFSCME, as well people from Arapahoe and Adams.”

“The various union groups and PERA were adamantly opposed to putting in an actuarial necessity test.”

(My comment: Well of course, the proposed test for “actuarial necessity” was lower than Colorado PERA’s funded ratio [69% AFR] at the time of the breach of Colorado PERA retiree pension contracts in 2010.)

Recently, the Colorado Supreme Court decided that the Colorado Legislature's historical underfunding of the Colorado PERA pension system could be addressed by clawing back accrued public pension benefits in the PERA pension system.

In its 2014 decision, the Colorado Supreme Court endorsed the 2010 PERA legislation, the subject of a PERA retiree lawsuit, SB10-001. Ninety percent of the state's "cost savings" in the 2010 bill are derived from taking accrued Colorado PERA COLA (statutory "annual benefit increase") benefits. Some members of the Colorado Legislature opposed these Colorado PERA shenanigans (i.e., theft).

Example:

Minority Leader and House Finance Committee Chairman Brian DelGrosso, February 23, 2012:

"I voted against Senate Bill1, and I voted against Senate Bill 1 not because I felt like we didn't need to fix PERA, I agreed with that part of it, but I voted against Senate Bill1 for the fact that it did adjust some of the COLAs and it did adjust stuff for folks that were already retired and people that were about ready to retire, and to me I felt like that was violating a contract that those people had got into . . . they played by the rules that were of the game at the time, and these folks . . . got up to where they about to retire or were retired, and now all of a sudden we were going to change the rules of game on them after they were done playing.  So to me, that was why I voted against Senate Bill 1, because I felt like that violated some of the contractual issues that we had."

Rep. DelGrosso: "The problem that we ran into with Senate Bill 1 . . . is that when they start adjusting things like the COLA . . . that's where it opens us up to lawsuits, because people are like 'hey, I'm five years away from retirement, I'm ten years away from retirement, I'm one year away, I am retired,' and then we go and make changes that's where we have lawsuits, because hey this a violating a contract . . . "

The premeditated scheme to claw back accrued Colorado PERA pension benefits, from its inception in 2009, was to forcibly take Colorado PERA retiree' assets outside of bankruptcy. (State governments cannot declare bankruptcy under federal law.) The only way that the Colorado Supreme Court (in concert with the Colorado Legislative Branch) could achieve this goal was by ignoring on-point Colorado public pension case law, and all evidence in the Colorado PERA retiree lawsuit, Justus v. State. In its October 2014 decision in the case, the Colorado Supreme Court ignored the testimony of Colorado PERA's own lawyers (in 2009) stating, on the record, that the Colorado PERA COLA benefit was a contractual obligation of Colorado-PERA affiliated employers. The Colorado Supreme Court embraced the original Denver District Court decision in this case, which did not even mention Colorado's public pension case law, (Bills and McPhail.) Is it possible that Denver District Court Judge Hyatt and his staff (in 2011) just happened to be such bad legal researchers that they were unaware of Colorado's on-point public pension case law that was being read by Colorado's relatively unsophisticated PERA retirees? This case law was indeed recognized by the forthright members of the Colorado Court of Appeals (in 2012) who found the case law to be "dispositive" in establishing the contractual right of PERA retirees to their accrued PERA COLA (ABI) benefits.

So, let's get this straight for posterity: The Colorado Court of Appeals (in 2012) found the relevant Colorado public pension case law in the case, Justus v. State, to be "dispositive," as to the contractual right to accrued PERA COLA benefits, yet Denver District Court Judge Hyatt (in 2011) acted as if this Colorado public pension case law did not exist (he did not mention it in his decision,) and Judge Hyatt's Denver District Court decision in the case was later embraced by the Colorado Supreme Court (in 2014.) So, here we have a situation in which state government forgives state government debt without the heightened scrutiny (no discovery) required under federal law, in US Trust.

All nice and tidy.

Chalkbeat, May 6, 2014 comment on the ongoing Colorado PERA studies, mentioned (above) by Senator Pat Steadman in his email:

"And the House Tuesday gave preliminary approval to Senate Bill 14-214, a bill that could have future implications for the 130,000-some teachers who are covered by the Public Employees’ Retirement Association. The bill proposes three studies of PERA, possibly setting up pension legislation in the 2016 legislative session. The measure needs Senate approval of a minor House amendment."

http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/05/06/final-school-funding-debate-fails-to-materialize/#.U2orzGcU-14

Chalkbeat:

"The problem, (Colorado Budget Director) Sobanet notes, is 'you really don’t know until 30 years from now' if the rate of return assumption was correct."

“'Isn’t it more important to think about what we could do along the way to know if we’re off' in the effort to make the system solvent, he said."

(My comment: Budget Director Henry Sobanet, one way to ease your concerns about being "off" in efforts to make PERA "solvent" is to request that the State of Colorado actually pay its bills. The Colorado Legislature's PERA "bill" (ARC) is presented to the Legislature each year by Colorado PERA's actuaries. This is a responsible means by which you can begin to allay your concerns: As Budget Director, insist that the State of Colorado make the pension contributions that are actuarially required to meet the state's contractual obligations.)

http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/06/02/pension-study-bill-may-set-stage-for-future-pera-debates/#.U432l2cU-14

Here we have Governor Hickenlooper aggressively defending the contractual property rights of oil and gas companies:

“Whether it’s local government or state government, I don’t think government should come in and snatch somebody’s property.” . . .

http://www.gjsentinel.com/news/articles/fractious-issue-of-fracking-may-reach-voters/

Yet, Governor Hickenlooper casually dismisses the contractual property rights of elderly Colorado pensioners:

". . . Sobanet is careful in discussing the studies, noting that his boss, Gov. John Hickenlooper. . . supports defending Senate Bill 1.'”

http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/06/02/pension-study-bill-may-set-stage-for-future-pera-debates/#.U432l2cU-14

Henry Sobanet, Governor Hickenlooper's Budget Director, was "intimately involved" in crafting SB10-001, the 2010 Colorado PERA "COLA-taking" legislation. Henry Sobanet has also worked as a "consultant," and a "policy advisor" for the business group "Colorado Concern."

From the Colorado Association of School Boards:

"Sobanet also served under former Gov. Bill Owens and was intimately involved in the crafting of SB 10-001, the bill passed in 2010 to shore up PERA."

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

THE SOBANET/COLORADO CONCERN CONNECTION:

The business organization Colorado Concern lobbied in support of SB10-001 at the Legislature in 2010. Henry Sobanet is a former "consultant" for Colorado Concern.

Hickenlooper Budget Director Henry Sobanet's employment history includes:

"- Consultant: Colorado Concern

- Economic and Policy Advisor: Colorado Concern

- Director: Colorado Office of State Planning and Budgeting."

Link:

http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Henry-Sobanet/58878975

From State Bill News in 2011:

"Henry Sobanet, now president of Colorado Strategies LLC, a private consulting firm that specializes in economics, Colorado budget issues, legislative affairs and strategic management, is joining the governor’s office as budget director.

Sobanet also consults for a pro-business advocacy group, Colorado Concern."

http://statebillnews.com/2011/01/sobanet-returning-to-state-government-as-hickenloopers-budget-chief/

THE COLORADO CONCERN/SB10-001 CONNECTION:

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Directory of Lobbyists by Bill for SB10-001 includes the following two Colorado Concern lobbyists listed as supporting SB10-001:

Peter Kirchhof – Colorado Concern – supporting

Janice Sinden – Colorado Concern – supporting -

(http://www.coloradoconcern.com/, Colorado Concern is a business organization. Janice Sinden is now Denver Mayor Hancock's Chief of Staff.)

Link:

http://www.sos.state.co.us/lobby/SubjectSearchResults.do?&cmd=passgo&pi1=1

THE SOBANET/GOV. BILL OWENS/GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER CONNECTION:

From Governor Hickenlooper's website:

Gov. John Hickenlooper named Henry Sobanet to return as Director of the Office of State Planning & Budgeting in 2011. In this role, Sobanet is responsible for the budget forecasting of the State’s revenue and budget planning."

(There is no mention of Henry Sobanet's Colorado Concern consulting services on this page of the Governor's website.)

http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/GovHickenlooper/CBON/1251588314689

From cbslocal.com:

"The Democrat also appointed Henry Sobanet to be director of the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting. Sobanet also served as GOP Gov. Bill Owens’ budget director."

(My comment: Recall that it was Governor Bill Owens who championed the Colorado PERA service credit "fire sale" a dozen years ago, costing the Colorado PERA pension system billions of dollars.)

http://denver.cbslocal.com/2011/01/04/hickenlooper-appoints-another-cabinet-member/

From the Denver Post:

"Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper today named a Republican and one of the most experienced hands in state fiscal issues to head his Office of State Planning and Budgeting."

"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/

(My comment: Henry Sobanet was Governor Owen's Deputy Budget Director in 2000 when Governor Owen's Colorado PERA pension "fire sale" legislation was adopted. It would be interesting to hear Henry Sobanet's perspectives and recollections regarding the Bill Owens "fire sale."

Denver Post editorial page editor Vince Carroll in the (July 31, 2013) Denver Post: "The administration of Gov. Bill Owens, in a major blunder, lobbied for the (Colorado PERA) fire sale as a shortsighted way to encourage early retirement . . ."

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

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

Where is Michael Bennet on Tax Extenders and another Wall Street Insider at Treasury?

Colorado's soon to be only Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Michael Bennet, is going to have to make some tough decisions soon. By most accounts, the planning for 2016's election is already underway, with larger strategies that will have to be make public being dissected and fine-tuned. 

Bennet has played it fairly safe throughout his career and managed to win a not so easy election last time. He figured out the P.R. part of his job quite adeptly: a feint to the left on the public option (where he ended up doing nothing) was matched with a blatant give to the right on union "card check" legislation.

Playing the dispassionate "third way" type along with small-ball stuff for Colorado and consistent whining about DC's Republican-rooted dysfunction (both sides don't "do it", Michael. -z) rounds out a conventional term by a conventional politician subscribed to all the standard Democratic political conventions of the last several years.

I don't think those conventions will hold the last 2 years of Obama's presidency. I'm not the only one who thinks that way; and voters surely rejected those conventions in the election we just witnessed. How else to explain why progressive policies won while candidates who ignored them – Landrieu, Udall, et. al - didn't? (That's a rhetorical question, CPOLS. cheeky)

This makes Michael Bennet's next public pronouncements, on tax extenders for Big Corporations and (maybe) the Middle Class, and another Wall Street Insider nominated by President Obama, all the more important:

Only progressives are opposed to the rich-people's gifts. So, progressives — Merkley, Warren, Reid (are you with us?) and friends — why not play a strong game instead of a weak one? 

Instead of surrendering almost everything you care about to get the least bit of something, progressives should threaten everything the other side wants and frankly, call their money-loving bluff. The White House wants the rich to have these gifts in their stocking; all Senate Republicans agree; and so does every corporate-loving Democrat (like "sorry for playing hard" Michael Bennet). Make the other side fight for the money, and look like it.

Could progressives kill the whole deal if they don't get what they want? If you put me in charge of the Open Rebellion insurgency, I'd try. After all, the entire left press is on your side — consider that Volsky's source could already be Senate progressives. In addition, the issue is hugely visible. And even if you lose, you'll get the best deal possible, not the worst one available. Just say to the other three players:

"Progressives in the Senate stand for working people and those struggling with poverty. The deal on the table is unacceptable in every way. We would rather have no deal than the one on offer. If you want our vote, put the deal on the table in 2014 that we voted for in 2013. That way everyone wins. That or nothing from us."

The White House and less-progressive senators will play the kitten card and complain, "But what about the poor?" You then say: 

"We care as much as you do. In fact, we care so much about the poor, we want the best deal possible, not the worst."

"Triangulate this," in other words. The White House has already come out against the size of the "bonanza." This offers them a chance to look even better by siding with you (they've already promised a veto, your own bottom line) — and at the same time, shows them a corner and offers a paint brush if they don't. I think this is worth a test. 

Progressives who really care about people are always blackmailed — far too successfully in my opinion — with a "kitten held hostage" as I alluded to above. Here the kitten (and believe me, kitten lives are valuable) is a set of tax breaks for the poor and renewable energy credits, items of real value. But the only way to end blackmail is to walk away from it. "Do you love your kitten as much as we love ours? Let's find out. No kitten needs to suffer in this deal." 

Bennet can keep doing what he's done in the past, and start lining up his post-Senate gig, or he can come out like a proud, progressive Democrat, and start fighting for more than just the minimum that it takes to be called a Democrat these days………which hasn't been a whole hell of a lot up to now.

 

Clock Still Ticking on the Greater Sage-Grouse

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Among the news-you-didn’t-hear leading into the holiday weekend, which got buried by other things—some worthy of attention and reflection, others the typical media noise—was a recent poll on the Greater Sage-Grouse.  It shows sportsmen in Colorado (and across the other 10 western state where the bird occurs) favor protecting its habitat. 

This is noteworthy as the federal government just announced it is listing the bird’s smaller relative the Gunnison Sage-Grouse as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  This story was posted online by the Public News Service – Colorado:

Earlier this month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it is classifying the Gunnison sage grouse as threatened. Under a court-ordered agreement, the agency will decide by next year whether to list the greater sage grouse.

Meanwhile the online news service ‘Environmental Protection’ reports:

The National Wildlife Federation on Nov. 19 released results from a poll of sportsmen and women in 11 states in the heart of greater sage-grouse country, with a majority of the respondents supporting efforts to protect the bird and the sagebrush landscape that supports it. A majority backed restrictions in important habitat to save the bird and avoid its placement on the federal Endangered Species List. Such a listing probably would lead to more stringent, long-term constraints on activities as hunting, fishing, recreation, and grazing, said John Gale, NWF's national sportsmen's campaign manager.

"First and foremost, it's critical that we save this iconic Western wildlife species," he said. "We can do that with strong conservation plans that protect key greater sage-grouse habitat while allowing responsible energy development, grazing, and other activities on other public lands."

He pointed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announcement last week that it is classifying the Gunnison sage-grouse as threatened to keep it from going extinct. The Gunnison sage grouse is smaller than the greater sage-grouse and now is found in portions of Colorado and southeastern Utah, which represent only 7 percent of its historic range, according to NWF.

The Durango Herald reported on the Colorado angle

According to survey results, nine out of 10 hunters believe it is important to take action to protect sage-grouse habitat. Almost as many believe protecting the animal will benefit other game species.

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Oh Frack! OPEC Calls Shale Bluff, Sends Oil Prices Into Free Fall

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

It seems that faced with declining profits of their own, as the frenzy to drill in American shale plays sent stockpiles skyrocketing and prices crashing, that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided to call the shale drillers’ bluff.  Reuters is reporting:

Saudi Arabia's oil minister told fellow OPEC members they must combat the U.S. shale oil boom, arguing against cutting crude output in order to depress prices and undermine the profitability of North American producers.

For at least a couple of years a few observers have pointed to how over-leveraged most shale-heavy oil and gas drillers are, that shale oil–no matter how abundant hydraulic fracturing makes it appear–is an expensive prospect that cannot sustain itself.  Over-leveraged with a need to drill more and more and more at an ever higher ‘break-even’ cost, some astute observers have noted that shale bears all the hallmarks of a classic ‘bubble.’

“In 2016, when OPEC completes this objective of cleaning up the American marginal market, the oil price will start growing again,” said Fedun, who’s made a fortune of more than $4 billion in the oil business, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “The shale boom is on a par with the dot-com boom. The strong players will remain, the weak ones will vanish.” 

As with bubbles in the recent past, shale contrarians have been met in the manner of all naysayers during halcyon days of hype and hucksters.  But many have nonetheless steadily insisted that shale is not the panacea and ‘revolution’ its barkers want those seemingly born daily to believe.  And now, it appears likely, that the other shoe is about to drop: the shale bubble is about to POP

Investors have wiped more than $50 billion off the value of Europe’s biggest oil companies after OPEC members rejected calls to cut their oil output. 

Go ahead, seems the message sent by OPEC, make our day: See how long you can “Drill, Baby, Drill” with a mountain of high-interest debt and oil prices collapsing. And as with bubbles in the past—like booms in the western energy fields—any observer of history should already know how it ends. 

The only question: will this be the time we learn better?

 

 

 

Colorado’s BEST Political Ads (2014)

Here's our list of Colorado's BEST Political Ads in 2014. Click here to get back to the introduction page.

Colorado's BEST Political Ads (2014):

1. "Joe Neguse for Colorado First Ad," Joe Neguse (D) for Secretary of State [30 Seconds]
If there was a better political ad in Colorado in 2014, we didn't see it. The first campaign spot for Joe Neguse was a simple affair, with the candidate speaking directly to the camera about making his first-ever political advertisement. Rather than asking for your vote in the ad, Neguse talks about his desire to improve the voting process for everyone in Colorado. There isn't much in the way of fancy production value in Neguse's ad — it wouldn't have been necessary, anyway — but this straightforward approach really worked because the script is well-written and Neguse has the natural charisma to grab the viewer's attention. While not "technically" complex, this type of spot is much more difficult than it looks; some candidates either don't speak well in front of a camera or are working off of a script with too many buzzwords and rhetoric to make a connection with the audience. Neguse handled this one perfectly.

 

(more…)

Colorado’s Best and Worst Political Ads: 2014

Back in late October, we asked you for suggestions for the Best and Worst political ads in Colorado this cycle. We took your suggestions and combed through YouTube searching for more candidates for Best and Worst political ads of 2014, and we've come up with finalists in both categories. We'll put the finalists to a vote to see which TV ads Colorado Pols readers think stood out the most this year.

Click here for Colorado's BEST Political Ads in 2014.

Click here for Colorado's WORST Political Ads in 2014.

How do we distinguish a "Good" advertisement from a "Bad" ad? There are a lot of different approaches for this kind of thing, but we decided to keep it simple and visceral. Our criteria:

► INSTANT IMPRESSION: A good political ad should stand out immediately in your mind — if you need to watch a particular ad a dozen times to make your decision, then it wasn't that good, and it certainly wasn't memorable.

PRODUCTION VALUE: Does the ad look like a 6th-grader made it with cheap movie-editing software? On the other hand, does the ad look over-produced and too melodramatic?

► MESSAGING: Is the ad clear about the candidate or issue it hopes to influence? Is it easy to understand without trying to cram too many talking points into 30 seconds?

► IMPACT: Rarely is one political ad responsible for determining the outcome in a particular race, and we didn't want to limit the discussion to candidates and campaigns that were victorious on Election Night. The Secretary of State race is a good example here; Democrat Joe Neguse was responsible for our favorite ad of the cycle, while Republican Wayne Williams (the winner in the SOS race) starred in some truly terrible spots. In this category, we also consider any negative effects from the ad in question — did the ad backfire and end up harming the candidate or issue it was designed to promote? Finally, we judge impact based on how we think the ad influenced an average voter; if a voter knew nothing else about the candidate or issue, would this ad be enough to get that voter leaning in the right direction?

► ONCE, TWICE, THRICE: We look at each ad three times, using the time-honored tactic of watching once with the sound off and once without looking at the screen (for an audible-only impression). This can be a critical test for a TV ad, and you can always tell when somebody got sloppy and didn't run through the proper tests before they released the spot to the networks. Going through this process is intended to help catch any potential problems before the ad was finalized. For example, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's infamous 2006 ad, which features the candidate standing next to the rear end of a horse, looks a lot different when you turn off the sound. To anyone watching the Beauprez ad at home without being able to hear the full audio, the visual takeaway is: Bob Beauprez = A Horse's Ass. Certainly not what they intended.

Follow the link below to view our list of the BEST and WORST political ads of the 2014 cycle:

Colorado's BEST Political Ad (2014): Finalists

Colorado's WORST Political Ad (2014): Finalists

Colorado’s WORST Political Ads (2014)

Here's our list of Colorado's WORST Political Ads in 2014. Click here to get back to the introduction page.

Colorado's WORST Political Ads (2014):

1. "Neighborhood," Bob Beauprez (R) for Governor [30 Seconds]
We never understood the decision by Bob Beauprez's campaign to start attacking Gov. John Hickenlooper on public safety issues by making the absurd argument that Coloradans are in harm's way because of Hickenlooper. Beauprez's late strategic change reeked of desperation, but this was a bad approach regardless of the timing. The message is ridiculous and over-the-top, earning a rebuke from the Denver Post editorial board ("Beauprez dives into gutter with new ad.") and almost certainly backfiring on Beauprez to some extent. For the cherry on this turd sundae, this ad also failed the "Watch it Three TImes" test; if you weren't looking directly at the television, you would glean nothing from this ad because there is no audible narration.

*Note: The ad below is the original version. This link shows the "corrected" spot following complaints from the Post.

 

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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.

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.
 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Teacher Files Lawsuit Addressing Public Pension Underfunding.

Courier Journal, November 11, 2014:

"A Louisville teacher filed a lawsuit Monday demanding that the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System do more to seek funding from the state and better communicate its financial woes with members."

"Randy Wieck, a U.S. history teacher at DuPont Manual High School who is behind the suit, alleges that KTRS has failed in its fiduciary duty by not aggressively pursuing the state money it needs to remain solvent." "He wants KTRS to support legal action against the Kentucky General Assembly if full funding for teacher pensions is not provided within a year."

(My comment: The Colorado approach to public pension underfunding has been breach of pension contract. Specifically, in 2010, Colorado PERA public pension officials supported legislation to take accrued public pension benefits to reduce pension system underfunding. These Colorado PERA officials argued that the contract for the Colorado PERA COLA benefit indeed existed, but that a one-time breach of the PERA COLA contractual obligation was "actuarially necessary." As litigation of the pension benefit taking progressed, Colorado PERA's lawyers abandoned their initial legal strategy ["actuarial necessity"] and suggested to the Colorado Supreme Court that [after having admitted to the existence of the contractual obligation] the contractual obligation did not exist. Apparently, the “justices” appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court [the five who participated in the case] were willing to don the blinders and grant any political favor requested by their political allies in the Colorado Legislative Branch. Thus, the Colorado Supreme Court ignored "stare decisis," disregarded 60-year old Colorado case law, failed to conduct a "contract analysis," ignored evidence of Colorado PERA's attorneys stating that the pension benefit was indeed a Colorado PERA contractual obligation, ignored the bill (SB10-001) sponsor's testimony that the pension benefit was in fact a Colorado PERA contractual obligation, ignored recorded legislative history of the contractual nature of the public pension benefit, failed to engage in the "heightened scrutiny" of the abandonment of state financial obligations required under federal case law (US Trust) and finally, the court embraced a discredited Denver District Court decision that, conveniently, did not bother to mention Colorado's on-point public pension case law. No trial, no discovery, evidence ignored, state government forgiving state government debt, billions of dollars seized, pensions inflated away. Grand Theft Pension.)

Courier Journal:

"The suit, filed in Jefferson Circuit Court, also demands that KTRS fully communicate its 'severe state of underfunding' to members and amend its protocol with new ethics and investment requirements."

"'The purpose of this is to urge the KTRS to take up this cause,' Wieck said."

"Wieck is seeking class-action status for more than 140,000 active and retired members who participate in teacher retirement plans through the system. Chris Tobe, a former trustee of Kentucky Retirement Systems and author of 'Kentucky Fried Pensions: A Culture of Cover-up and Corruption,' is among his advisers in the suit."

"But Robert Barnes, KTRS general counsel and deputy executive secretary of operations, said Monday that Wieck's argument lacks merit."

"'KTRS has been talking about this funding issue for some time with membership, and it has been requesting that the full funding be provided to the retirement system,' he said. 'It does that every budget request.'"

"According to the 2013 valuation of KTRS, the system faces more than $13.8 billion in unfunded liabilities and has only 52 percent of the money it needs to pay out pension benefits in coming decades."

"Officials say KTRS needs around $400 million a year in additional money from the state to shore up investments and meet its obligations."

"Barnes said the system is working with lawmakers to develop a financing plan that involves low-interest bonds — paid for with existing revenue streams."

"House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, indicated last week that the Democratic-controlled House is interested in considering bonds as a funding option, but Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, has reserved judgment."

"Wieck also warned that he might file additional lawsuits against the legislature and the governor depending on what happens in the 2015 General Assembly."

"He said shoring up the system is critical considering that teachers do not receive Social Security benefits."

See the article at the Courier Journal here:

http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/ky-legislature/2014/11/10/jcps-teacher-sues-pension-system/18806717/

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

Disconcerting

The Senate narrowly defeated a bill calling on the President to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  While the bill was introduced by Democratic Senator, Mary Landrieu, it got the vote of all the Senate Republicans and only a couple of Democrats.  But one of them was none other than our own, Michael Bennet.  Is this website going to even mention that fact?  Are you going to take a position on Sen. Bennet's vote.  I anxiously await your response.

No War on Christmas at The Post, Despite Right-Wing Allegation

(The war on Christmas starts earlier every year – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

war_on_xmas

In its annual "Friend or Foe of Christmas" campaign, the Liberty Counsel, a right-wing Florida-based organization, is targeting The Denver Post for allegedly banning newspaper carriers from writing "Merry Christmas" on holiday cards that they give to newspaper subscribers.

Liberty Counsel claimed that The Post, in a memo to staff, threatened to fire employees who use a Merry-Christmas card or any card other than the holiday card issued by The Post.

"Federal regulations state that employers must make reasonable efforts to accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of their employees," states the Liberty Counsel email, parts of which were reproduced in a news release here. "It is ludicrous to threaten termination for wishing someone a 'Merry Christmas,' a federal holiday."

Brian Trujillo, The Post's Circulation Director, told me The Post did not issue a threatening memo on this topic to anyone, as alleged by Liberty Counsel.

(more…)