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.

 

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?

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Told Ya So Part III: The Elephant in the Room

(Discuss - Promoted by Colorado Pols)

As Colorado Pols continues to scour the election results for positive data points from a mediocre result they continue to miss the larger issue from last Tuesday's electoral dysfunction: Democrats did not have a coherent message to run on nor candidates that could create one of their own.

Harry Truman, Truth Teller

The most glaring example of this and the latest victim of ignoring Harry Truman is Mark Udall:

What about Mark Udall in Colorado, another Democrat who lost in a purple state that Obama carried? Udall built his campaign narrative around a war on women by his opponent Rep. Cory Gardner. He, like Braley, ticked off a list of progressive issues — from minimum wage to pay equity to protecting Social Security — without providing any framing story to link them together. He left out who the villains are in the story.

Udall also committed the ultimate narrative sin: delivering your opponent's story. Here's the closing line of a Udall ad: "I'm Mark Udall. No one — not government, not Washington — should have the power to take those rights and freedoms away." Voters who wanted the anti-government candidate chose the real thing!

Udall would have had a much broader audience for his "war on women" message if he framed it as part of a broader war on American families by the rich and powerful. It is easy to make opposition to pay equity or a woman's right to make her own decisions part of this broader story, which speaks to Americans' deep concerns about their families.

(more…)

UPDATE: Told Ya So, Part II – more calls for Bennet’s resignation

UPDATE: Another call for Bennet's resignation at DailyKos.

There are other contributing factors, including bright Red districts, but Betsy Markey and John Salazar's short lives as One Term Congresscritters/Congressional Blue Dogs evidently taught Colorado's state-wide electeds nothing. 

Both Michael Bennet and Mark Udall went the Blue Dog route at the start of Obama's presidency, and by doing so aided and abetted Republican Obstructionism and put a choke hold any number of progressive policies that have since been thwarted. I bemoaned their actions in real time at S2. Here, Howie at Down with Tyranny gives a bloody post-mortem:

Of the 6 utterly worthless challengers the Blue Dogs endorsed, 2 were elected: Gwen Graham (FL) and Brad Ashford (NE). Their candidates were heavily supported by "ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel, who pushed them on his colleagues and backed them at the DCCC. Below is a list of the 6, including how much the DCCC spent on them directly and what percentage of the vote each wound up with: 

• Gwen Graham (FL)- $3,572,524- 50.44%
• Patrick Henry Hays (AR)- $1,760,339- 43.62%
• Brad Ashford (NE)- $1,432,187- 48.64%
• Nick Casey (WV)- $792,432- 43.88%
• James Lee Witt (AR)- $81,804- 42.59%
• Jennifer Garrison (OH)- $39,310- 38.59

So if everything holds after recounts, etc, the Blue Dogs have gone from 19 to 12– if the two conservatives they helped elect, Graham and Ashford – join the caucus. 

That's the situation in the House, which Howie tracks like a bloodhound. Here's a summary:

Wall Street is howling that they will only accept New Dems Vice Chair Jim Himes as the next DCCC chair. Get ready for an explosion from grassroots activists if Pelosi goes for it. In winning his reelection, staunch progressive champion, Jeff Merkley (D-OR), issued this statement: 

In 2008, we won very narrowly in a great year for Democrats. In 2014, facing millions of dollars of Koch Brothers attack ads, against an opponent heralded by Republicans, and amidst a national tidal wave, things could have gone very wrong.

Instead, we won big… Our victory sends a powerful message: when you stand up for working Americans, when you fight for a fair shot for everyone– a chance to work a good job at a living wage and go to college and retire with dignity– working Americans stand up for you!

We took on the powerful special interests and we won. Because our values are Oregon values and American values.

Bad election for the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. Generally, not so bad for the Democratic wing.

 

Still waiting for Colorado's Dems to start acting the part and quit being afraid of their shadows. Still waiting for congressional Blue Dogs to go extinct while Colorado's Dems insist on giving them life support.

Part I. Yes, there will probably be a Part III for those of you dying to know the thoughts of Zappatero.

Hate to say “I told you so”, but……

I told you so!

Michael Bennet should resign the DSCC chairmanship immediately and figure out how to truly represent Colorado and the Democratic values he ran on (but has not governed on):

This last election saw a stellar set of True Progressive Democrats elected to the US Senate.Tammy Baldwin and Elizabeth Warren will join Sherrod BrownBernie Sanders, Tom Harkin and others as key fights over the social safety net and the economy continue into 2013 and beyond.

With this distinctly progressive push voters provided Democrats the political capital to counteract Radical Republican Obstuctionists and Moderate ConservaDem Blue Dogsenators who prevented President Obama from acting fully on his mandate in 2008.

The biggest question for Obama's second term is whether he'll work to protect long-standing Democratic programs and principles and enact the more progressive policies that voters urged with his second resounding electoral mandate:

"If the president stands firm … he will have the overwhelming majority of Americans behind him," Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders says.

"And sooner or later the Republicans will catch on that they are in danger of becoming a marginal, fringe party unless they get along with the program and do what the American people want."

If the president stands firm. And if the United States Senate maintains steady movement towards more progressive policies that are possible with these new and unabashedly progressive senators.

Mark Udall, despite all the "6-year itch" talk and numerous other excuses coming from The Professional Left, could have done much better for Coloradans and Senate Democrats had he taken more substantive stands on the economy and other issues. 

His incessant harping on The Grand Bargain, his Blue Dog affinities (ref. Salazar, Markey), his stupid decision to join Third Way all got him nice little pats on the head from Lawrence Kudlow and his buddies, but were wrong politically and wrong economically. (Go ahead and check how BD/TW candidates did this year…..if you dare.)

At this point I tend to agree with Professional Political Curmudgeon Ralph Nader:

With House Democrats bracing for Election Day losses on Tuesday, Ralph Nader is calling on Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other top party leaders to call it quits.

The prominent consumer advocate and perennial presidential candidate says the failure of those leaders to win the House gavel over three straight election cycle should means it's time for a new crop of lawmakers to take control of the party.

"Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Steve Israel  (and MIchael Bennet. -z) should now recognize the wisdom of baseball’s 'three strikes and you’re out' … step down from their posts and invite fresh leadership who can save the country from the ravages of today’s Republican party," Nader said Tuesday in a statement. Hoyer (Md.) is the minority whip, and Israel (N.Y.) is chairman of the party's campaign committee.

Colorado will always be Red, or just Purple, if our elected statewide and national Democrats can't figure out how to support Democratic and Progressive policies without pissing their pants.

And if ColoradoPols (the Proprietors, not the Commenters and Posters) ever figures out that the issues they support actually deserve that support, and not only the fact that a candidate has a (D) after their name, then that would be a big help in the monumental job of rebutting Republican Lies and their Oligarchical policies.

Have a nice day, Polsters! yes

P.S. Don't kill the messenger. Same message here, here, here, here and here. And here. And here. describing Mark Udall to a 't':

Corporate America is not dumb; it's worked hard to sew up both political parties in its nefarious schemes to place their short-term economic interests before the health and well-being of the average American. One major party was more than glad to go along; the other one went along with all this angst and agita in the background perhaps, but it still went along.

And that's what did us in.

And describing DSCC Chair Michael Bennet to a 't'

The Republican corporatists are worse than the Democratic corporatists, but only to a degree. And Republican corporatists are at least true to their principles, however abhorrent those principles might be to some of us. The Democratic corporatists, however, are the real culprits here. Having sucked the soul out of the Democratic party, they have leeched out of it whatever moral authority it had left. Why weren't they able to activate the base?? Because they decimated the base!

And that's what did us in.

And here detailing the need for Dems to provide voters with a compelling reason to vote for them, not just against the other guy.

You don’t win elections with a depressed and discouraged base, and you don’t win elections without a narrative that explains to voters why we you should win. Democrats failed on both scores. What my party needs to learn is that our candidates need to tell voters why they have a D behind their name on the ballot, and our entire party- candidates, top elected officials, Democratically-aligned organizations, the grassroots and Netroots- needs to have a unified story about what the election is about.

P.P.S. Obama's "post-partisan" gambit, abandoning the 50-state strategy and removing Dean as Dem Party Chair also contributed.

P.P.P.S. But hey, maybe I'm just a Cheeto-stained loser and Colorado Pols and Michael Bennet are the geniuses.

Lakewood Residents: Beware City Council O-21!

On Monday night, Lakewood City Council will take up Ordinance 21, a measure that would weaken legal protections for homeowners to hold developers responsible for fixing construction defects they caused. O-21 would:

  • Give builders the unilateral right to decide on repairs, even over a homeowner's reasonable objection or when the proposed repairs are dangerous or inadequate
  • Impose unreasonable requirements and restrictions on HOAs that make it very difficult to pursue legal claims against builders and developers
  • Prevent HOAs from seeking a jury trial by preventing them from legally amending their governing documents to pursue them
  • Allow builders to destroy construction defect evidence a homeowner would need to prove claims, as well as opt-out rights that homeowners wouldn’t have
  • Conflict with state laws already providing builders with the opportunity to make things right, HOAs to provide defect lawsuit notice to members, etc. – out of jurisdiction

While the intent of O-21 is great – address the lack of affordable housing – O-21 is not the right solution. Increasing pressure on developers to build a higher quality product, definitely. Looking at insurance practices and possible reform, maybe. But taking away homeowners’ ability to determine when, how and the process for fixing shoddy construction in their defective homes? No way. Hear from homeowners themselves who tell the story here:

Lakewood CD Ordinance-HD from Build Our Homes Right on Vimeo.

The bottom line? Anyone buying a house in Lakewood should expect that it is built right – but if there are problems, they should be able to hold builders responsible for their construction defects. You just might want to email Lakewood City Council members to vote no on O-21 if this sounds like a bad idea to you: 

Disclosure: I’m working with Build Our Homes Right, a coalition of homeowners, homeowner associations, property managers, legal advocates and other allies, seeking to ensure that homeowners are protected in Colorado. 

SEIU Hits Gardner On Minimum Wage En Español

Here's the English translation of SEIU Committee on Political Education's (COPE) newest Spanish language ad running in Colorado, hitting Republican Cory Gardner on his opposition to raising the minimum wage:

Juanita: I am a person who works… and I need to have two jobs…
Voiceover: But Republican Cory Gardner fought against raising the minimum wage here in Colorado.
Tomas: And I don’t think that’s fair and just, because I’m here to work with dignity.
Luisa: It’s indignant because he doesn’t think about the community, about the people. He only thinks like a Republican.
Voiceover: In November, we’re voting against Cory Gardner.

From SEIU's release today:

"Colorado Latinos can't ignore what the future would hold with Mr. Gardner whose voting record shows callous disregard for working Latino families," said SEIU Executive Vice President Rocio Sáenz. "The constituents you hear and see in this ad are just a small sample of a larger dissatisfaction that is quite clear among Latino voters in Colorado."

"The distinction between Sen. Mark Udall and Congressman Gardner is clear. While the senator understands that Latino and immigrant families are fighting for better wages, education, and immigration reform, Gardner has actively ignored or blocked these key issues," Sáenz said, adding. "It's unforgivable and unforgettable."

This ad is reportedly well-funded to run on Spanish language television in Colorado, and is the fourth out from SEIU hitting Gardner with Latino voters. The previous three ads all concerned immigration reform, an issue Gardner has already taken plenty of fire on, so moving on to wages as an issue makes a lot of sense. Latinos are a key constituency where incumbent Mark Udall needs to run up the score against Gardner–and where Gardner, knowing he can't win outright among Latino voters, needs to minimize his losses.

All told, we'd say smart money is being spent here.

Unemployment Below 6% for First Time Since 2008

As CNN Money reports, there's plenty of good news in the last jobs report before the November election:

The nation's unemployment rate fell below 6% in September for the first time in six years.

The rate came in at 5.9%, while employers added 248,000 jobs last month…

…The "drop out" factor has been a problem during the recovery, but the recent decrease in the unemployment rate, which stood at 7.2% a year ago, is due more to Americans landing jobs than giving up. Employers have added 2.6 million people to their payrolls since last September.

This is obviously important news for candidates up and down the ballot, but it is particularly important for Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose primary message for re-election has revolved around economic growth.

Studies show: Protecting Greater Sage Grouse is good for Colorado Jobs & Economy

One of the West’s iconic birds, the Greater Sage Grouse includes among its historic home and heritage significant lands in Northwest Colorado. Now a new study shows that protecting that habitat could secure a $50,000,000 and growing input into the Colorado economy. 

The findings of the report which came out yesterday (September 30) are backed by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Western Values Project

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT LATEST NEWS WIRES

$1 billion recreation spending fueled by sagebrush, study says

$1 billion in recreation spending helped boost economies in 11 Western states and helped efforts to protect greater sage-grouse habitat last year, according to a study commissioned by Pew Charitable Trusts. The $1 billion in recreation spending came mostly from hunters, campers, fishermen, and others.

…The study is the first of its kind to examine the direct and indirect economic impacts of recreation spending tied to U.S. Bureau of Land Management property with habitat for sagebrush-dependent species, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Hunters, campers, fishermen and others spent more than $623 million directly within 50 miles of Bureau of Land Management property in sagebrush ecosystems across more than 61 million acres, said the report by ECONorthwest, an economic consulting firm founded in Oregon in 1974.

The findings are also supported by another study, backed by the Nature Conservancy, University of Wyoming, the University of Montana, and the US Geological Survey (among others) that was getting reported the day prior: that protecting lands in the Upper Green River Basin in Wyoming for the Greater Sage Grouse is also good for the area’s prized mule deer herds, and that’s good for hunters and local communities alike. 

Conservationists long have speculated that protective measures for sage grouse also benefit the more than 350 other species that inhabit sagebrush ecosystems, but this study is the first to quantify the “umbrella” benefits of those actions for migratory mule deer. Those measures include Wyoming’s sage grouse “core area” policy, which limits development in the state’s key grouse habitat, as well as conservation easements, agreements with private landowners to limit development.

“This study underscores the simple idea that keeping sagebrush habitats intact through Wyoming’s core area policy and conservation easements will have additional benefits for mule deer habitat,” says Holly Copeland, a research scientist with The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming and lead author of the paper.

…Both sage grouse and mule deer, two iconic species of the American West, have seen significant population declines in recent years, as a result of drought, energy and residential development, and other habitat fragmentation. 

The benefit of protecting sage grouse habitat as a way to strengthen the economic activity supported by the public lands is due in part to its value in protecting this range of habitats for numerous species, as the CSM article notes:

Biologists consider the greater sage grouse to be an indicator species whose population numbers signify the health of the entire sage brush ecosystem that supports a wide array of wildlife.

These benefits of protecting our wildlife and wild places ought not only be measured in dollars and cents.  Certainly there is room for the wisdom that embraces  an inherent place for the other species of our world.   But the numbers, if crunched, are clear and compelling as well.  Protecting public lands in Colorado necessary for the survival of wildlife—including the greater sage grouse and big game herds, along with over 300 other species—also secures jobs. 

And that makes it a triple win.   

Big Government Republicans go on Offense in Springs

 

Everyone, well, except their own constituents, knows the Republican claim to be against Big Government is a well-planned and executed lie. They're really against any kind of big government that helps the Middle Class, that helps democratize our economy, our civil rights, our infrastructure, or our education system in any way. When it comes to going to war, spying on Americans (tho Obama does get several demerits for this, too), tax breaks for America's largest, most polluting and most profitable industries and corporations it can't ever be big enough.

What with the still-flaccid economy (thanks to their obstructionist brethren in DC), and a bipartisan set of budget cuts to everything, Republicans in Colorado Springs and El Paso County have gone on the offense to maintain our vast military and the local economy's reliance on Big Government, Military Industrial-strength spending:

While Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach and El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen may be warring (ha ha, funny.-ed.) over stormwater back home and plotting each other's defeat in next year's mayoral race, they were pulling together at the capital. And while they may be rooting against Gov. John Hickenlooper in the November election, they were working closely with his military team.

Who knew Hick had a military team? 

At stake are as many as 16,000 soldiers and hundreds of airmen who could be cut as part of a Pentagon plan to carve $900 billion from its budget over a decade. The pitch, made to military leaders Tuesday, is that Colorado Springs is a great town that loves its troops and keeping them in the shadow of Pikes Peak makes America safer.

"We are at risk," Bach said. "Everything is on the table."

Exactly as it should be in, ummmm, war. With just the right amount of fear mongering.

The delegation of 13 Pikes Peak region business and community leaders is spending three days in the capital where they plan to lean on Colorado congressional staff member and other key leaders to stave off the cuts. With a new war growing against the Islamic State group, they may find a receptive audience.

Lindsey Graham and John McCain: Mission Accomplished

The prospect of huge losses has energized state and local leaders. The General Assembly this year approved cash for an economic impact study of the military in Colorado and for a lobbying campaign.

The Regional Business Alliance and other local organizations have redoubled their lobbying for military money. In August, the business alliance gathered signatures on 3,600 postcards from locals pledging support for Fort Carson and its soldiers.

County Commissioner Peggy Littleton said a bigger effort is forthcoming. She's pushing for all 64 counties in Colorado to pass resolutions supporting the military.

That much bipartisanship would probably kill me. But just think if we were of one voice in supporting students, our aging bridges, local arts and cultural foundations rather than America's Mighty War Machine? Our economy, and its citizens, would boom. (Ooops, bad analogy.-ed.)

One issue that Air Force leaders told them must be addressed is stormwater, a longtime issue of contention in El Paso County that affects area bases. While military leaders won't endorse a measure on November's ballot to address regional stormwater needs, they said they want the problem addressed, said Andy Merritt, who oversees military issues for the business alliance.

"They want it fixed," Merritt said.

Great. Something Springs's leaders have been struggling with for years, something the anti-tax, Doug-Bruce-iopaths have taken to court, just needs the a-ok from a General officer or two. That Manitou Springs could be washed away any day isn't reason enough to fix this massive problem. Well, they are a bunch of liberal pot smokers anyway. 

Mark Volcheff, vice chairman of the alliance's Military Affairs Council and a retired Air Force major general, said Pentagon leaders won't hesitate to make deep cuts if Congress doesn't come up with more cash for the military.

We can only hope. And Ike must be spinning in his grave.

The interstate highway system has done more for our nation, for far less of an investment, than all the DoD contracts combined have done to stamp out religious extremism around the world. It's too bad we can't see the forest for the trees on this issue. And more napalm to burn it all down won't help in the way those same efforts and investments would help if the money went to bridges, schools and hospitals here rather than blowing those same things up overseas.

(That last sentence needs rewrite!-ed.)

A Rising Tide in the Sage Brush Sea – Saving the Sage Grouse is Good for Wildlife

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This time of year the color comes out in Colorado, and it’s not only the golden aspen in the high country or rusty scrub-oak on south-facing slopes.  Blaze orange is also in full display in western Colorado as communities put out banners, and the hunters don’t disappoint—for the arrival of the fall hunting season

The Piceance Basin has been called, at various times, Colorado’s ‘mule deer factory’ and a ‘national sacrifice area.’  One is an apt description of biological fact—the Piceance is home to the largest migratory deer herd in North America and the other an unfortunate description of what too many think: that developing the area’s abundant fossil fuel deposits ought to take precedent over everything else.  Including the wildlife

This isn’t meant to be a soapbox: a lot of lands are already leased or controlled by energy companies in Northwest Colorado, more drilling is coming.  But unlike where the shale is getting drilled and fracked on the East Slope, out in Weld County for instance, gas in the Piceance isn’t worth as much for a variety of reasons and companies are mostly sitting on their large reserves—for now.

This gives Colorado’s wildlife a bit of a time out, and we shouldn’t waste it.  Because it’s not just the mule deer, or the elk, it’s all the wildlife that relies on humans not being reckless with their habitat just to suit our purposes.  That includes the Greater Sage Grouse.  And that’s a reason for everyone to come to the table and figure things out quick. 

Which gets back to the hunting season.  Hunters need animals, and animals need habitat.  It’s as simple as that, and that’s why hunters have long been counted among America’s original conservationists.  The Sage Grouse is in the news lately because its habitat needs are not being met and its headed for a listing under the Endangered Species Act.  Lots of different folks would like to avoid that—including many conservation groups if the bird’s habitat can be protected and enhanced so the grouse’s decline can be reversed. 

But the State of Colorado needs to act fast to put real and strong protection in place that protect the bird’s habitat.  That means doing more to protect habitat in the Piceance Basin, which is also where the Greater Sage Grouse occurs in Colorado.  That’s good for all the animals.  And hunters.  

Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) Displaying on a Montana Lek from Ronan Donovan on Vimeo.

 

Betsy Markey Busts Walker Stapleton: Yes You Did Say That

A fundraising email from Democratic state treasurer candidate Betsy Markey today catches Republican Walker Stapleton in a whopper of a lie from their recent debate on Colorado Public Television. As sent to her supporters earlier today:

Tonight is your chance to catch my first debate with Walker Stapleton. It’s airing on Colorado Public Television-12 tonight at 7:30 p.m., or you can catch it on their website…I told you everything we didn’t hear from Walker Stapleton at the debate…no answers on his PERA attacks, his lack of transparency or his embarrassing absenteeism.
 
Of course it wasn’t all silence. Back in 2010, when Walker Stapleton first ran for Treasurer, he had this to say:
 
“It’s time, unfortunately, that everyone that benefits from PERA suffers.”
 
But when he was pushed on those statements at the debate, here’s how he answered:
 
“I never said that.”

Here's the video of the exchange in question:

MARKEY: I'd like to see you come up with a specific solution, instead of suing the PERA board on which you sit for records of the top 20% of the beneficiaries–which is quite frankly privacy information–and uses it as a political football. instead of coming up with a specific change you would like to make, and then you bring it to the state legislature as was done with Senate Bill #1. And it was supported by both Democrats and Republicans. And that's how you make changes, instead of, of basically saying, which you have said, 'it's time for people under PERA to suffer.' Well, I don't want  half a million people, who rely…

STAPLETON: I never said it's time for people to suffer…

MARKEY: Yeah, the Canon City editorial, it was from…

STAPLETON: I said, the only way to fix the problem is shared sacrifice. It's shared sacrifice.

MARKEY: I mean, I'm making, I'm not making, I'm not making this up…

We do have one small correction: Walker Stapleton didn't say "it's time for people under PERA to suffer" in an editorial. As the Canon City Daily Record's Rachel Alexander reported in February of 2010, he said it at a forum hosted by the Fremont County Republicans.

[Stapleton] said he would focus on shoring up the state pension system and that he would be an activist on PERA's board. 

"It's time, unfortunately, that everyone that benefits from PERA suffers," he said. [Pols emphasis]

But folks, he most certainly did say it. We referenced this story back in 2010–the same story in which Stapleton infamously told the soccer moms of Colorado "it’s time education competes for funds." Now, maybe Stapleton doesn't remember all the crazy things he said on the 2010 campaign trail, like warning of "hyperinflation" Glenn Beck-style and claiming the state needed to hoard gold to stay afloat.

The moral of the story? If you say these kinds of embarrassing things, own up to them, even if it's just to admit you were wrong–because denying the permanent record that anyone can find is much worse.

Supporting Net Neutrality

I submitted my last comment asking the FCC to regulate internet providers as common carriers today. I hope everyone submitted something this summer as net neutrality is vital to the existence of sites like this one. All the comments can be read at the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System Search for Filings page.

Here is my comment:

To FCC Commissioners Wheeler, Clyburn, O’Reilly, Rosenworcel, Pai, and O’Reilly


    I have read the four recent fillings submitted by Comcast, and I am deeply concerned. These filings are full of deceptive language, and it is obvious that this company thinks that the job of government is to help it make money. Instead, the job of government is to make sure that everyone, including major corporations, follows the law. We have decided as a society that internet access is vital to commerce, education,  and the pursuit of happiness. The FCC has the ability to protect internet access by declaring that internet providers are common carriers.

    A company may experience something as a “heavy-hand” because they cannot compete on a level playing field while most internet users would experience that standard as a “light-hand”. So might new businesses. While most people cannot travel to DC to meet with Commissioners in person, I am sure that those commissioners who have traveled have heard many people say that unequal access to the internet would feel harsh and heavy. Small businesses cannot pay more for decent internet access. Local government websites may be legally blocked from paying enough to provide access to all their citizens.

    Please regulate internet providers as common carriers.