Benker SPAMS Prospect

Seems Longmont City Councilmember Karen Benker sent out some SPAM emails to her neighbors in the Prospect neighborhood.  Here it is below (in black) with some additional made-up lines thrown in (in red) to make it more interesting.  Enjoy.

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Hi everyone,
Yes, it’s that time of year again…football, falling leaves in Prospect, and elections.  (But Sunshine Law violations and misleading about “accomplishments” is a year round activity that keeps me quite busy)

Gotten any strange calls lately?  (UFO’s got you down?  People stalking around your home or place of business?)

As you know, I am (unfortunately) running for reelection to City Council and am facing a very negative campaign from folks that are (spreading the truth about me, and) refusing to file campaign expenditure reports and are hiding behind a Montana non-profit called Western Tradition Partnership (well, actually I’m not being totally truthful.  WTP has made contributions to Longmont Leadership Committee, who are filing campaign expenditure reports) Seems weird (like, totally weird) that out-of-state and out-of-city folks (darn city folk) are involved in a Longmont campaign.  (Sort of like how the Democratic Party has funded my campaigns in the past)

Please do not believe these lies and distortions of my record (as they are pretty much 100% true). If you want more info, go to my website (www.KarenBenker.com) or, better yet, please give me a call at 303.774.7745. (And don’t forget to ask me about Clover Basin, Secret Executive Sessions, and Open Records violations – three of my favorite subjects, along with pushing churches out of town, harrasing their members, and suing neighboring cities)

I ask you for your vote (but if you’re smart, you’ll mail it in after Election Day, or just vote for my opponent Katie Witt). Many thanks.

Hope to see you at the chili cook off.  (Don’t forget to try the Backyard Chicken and Prairie Dog Surprise recipes!)

Karen Benker

Benkers Clover Basin mistruth proven

If you’ve seen Longmont City Councilmember Karen Benker‘s website and flier, or have heard her speak at forums, you’ve probably read or heard this repeated mistruth of hers that she “ended the unfair Clover Basin Fire tax“.   You even see some of her miscreant followers screech this in the Times-Call comment section, probably at the same time covering their ears and yelling “la la la” as the actual truth is told to them.

Well, I guess I just have one question:  If this tax was ended and it was a done deal, like so many have falsely portrayed, why is it on this Tuesday’s Longmont City Council agenda for the council to finally vote on it?

Uh oh, an inconvenient truth for Ms. Benker.  Has she been lying on her brochures, website, and public speaking engagements?  In a word, yes.

But lets dig deeper into the agenda, specifically this PDF from the city’s website that speaks directly to this Clover Basin issue.  There are some interesting quotes that you need to be aware of.  Here’s one, and this is by their City Attorney Eugene Mei:  “At the July 21, 2009 study session, Council provided direction to staff to terminate the District’s annual payment obligation at the end of this year, and to dissolve the District.”  I know this can be complicated to understand (if you can’t read), but this was the vote to draft a Resolution to end the District, not an actual vote to end the District, that takes a Resolution.

Actually, it will take two Resolutions, and here they are (again, yet to be voted on):
1. R-2009-92, A Resolution of the Longmont City Council To Terminate the Intergovernmental Agreement with the Clover Basin Fire Protection District and Eliminate the District’s Future Annual Payment Obligations
2. R-2009-93, A Resolution of the Longmont City Council Consenting to the Dissolution of the Clover Basin Fire Protection District

But there’s more, Mr. Mei continues:  “Accordingly, the City has negotiated with the District the attached termination agreement that will terminate the IGA on December 31, 2009—and with it all future annual payment obligations—provided that the District makes this year’s final payment in full.”  Uh oh, there’s a condition.  How could there be any conditions if it was a done deal?

And then there’s this interesting tidbit (brace yourself Clover Basin non-done deal deniers):  The proceedings to dissolve the District will be conducted in state district court according to statutory procedures as set forth in C.R.S. Title 32, and will continue well into 2010.”

So how can the following statement on Ms. Benker’s website be true?  “In July 2009, a third council vote was taken with a vote of 7 to 0—finally eliminating this unfair tax and directing staff to sunset the agreement between the city and the special district.”  Easy answer, it’s not true.  It’s Ms. Benker assuming you don’t know better when a lifetime politician is pulling the wool over your eyes.

Oh, it gets better.  If Ms. Benker had her way at that July 2009 meeting, every voter in the City of Longmont would have voted on this issue which would have put the shaft to all of those Clover Basin residents Ms. Benker falsely claims to be the savior of.  You can read more of that part of the story at this link.

Basically, Karen Benker is playing the voters of Longmont as fools, especially those in Clover Basin.  If this is the kind of leadership you consider effective, you might need your head examined.

Councilmembers, candidates, and citizens who stalk others

It’s become painfully clear after the October 12th Election Committee Special Meeting that Longmont Councilmember Karen Benker and her loyal mouthpieces intend to use this committee as their own little political hit squad.  Ms. Benker has now filed 5 complaints to get done what she wants done – and her 5 complaints are the ONLY complaints filed so far.  Call the wahh-mbulance.

Until tonight there were only 3 complaints, but they were amended, and what was in those amendments is what’s really seedy.  The complaints were made against Longmont Leadership Committee, who have allegedly put out mailers, push-polls, and robo-calls.  Their address was filed with City Clerk when they registered.  So Ms. Benker and her merry bunch, which according to her complaint includes current council candidate Kaye Fissinger, went driving around town looking for the Longmont Leadership Committee.  Unfortunately, Ms. Benker apparently dropped a digit from their filed address.  Real brain surgeon material here. (UPDATE-1 INFO BELOW)

What was interesting was the email exchange that ensued between Ms. Benker and Ms. Fissinger.  It appears that Ms. Benker is schooling her lackies in how to use “CONFIDENTIAL” in the subject line so she doesn’t have to forward them to the city’s server.  In the complaint, she left out the original email from Ms. Fissinger and only shared the 2 that followed (UPDATE-2 INFO BELOW).  Just because someone says “CONFIDENTIAL” doesn’t mean it is, as the City Attorney clearly told them over a year ago.  From what I saw, these were clearly NOT confidential.  Let’s take a gander at them.

On October 5th, in a reply to Ms. Fissinger’s original email, Ms. Benker says “Kaye, I tried checking out the address on the flyer (flyers are people who fly airplanes, fliers are brochures).  Looks like it is just a house. 600 Hover St, C3 #129  Do you have any way to figure out who owns it?  karen”  (She got the address wrong and is trying to get Ms. Fissinger to hunt down info on the owners of this house!  Remember, this is a city council member telling a citizen and council candidate to do some snooping on a private citizens residence, very creepy stuff).

Within 13 minutes, Ms. Fissinger replies: “I think they may have listed the address incorrectly.  1600 Hover Street C3 is a mail box business.  I had Duane (presumably Duane Leise, fellow “What’s In It For Longmont” member) drive over there within the last week or so because it’s also the address for Longmont Leadership.  Coincidentally (or not) it’s very near the Longmont FAA facility (where Rodriguez works).  The #129 is probably the actual box number.  Kaye

So, there you have it.  Karen Benker, Kaye Fissinger, and Duane Leise are driving around town on a quest of what Ms. Fissinger once called the “politics of personal destruction” as they try to collect information on private citizens, and stalk around my work (which is a Federal installation).  I made it clear to the Election Committee tonight that if they want to drag the FAA into this little game Ms. Benker is playing, I’d be more than happy to bring along a federal attorney next time.

Here’s a little tip to this trio of stalkers and spies:  I have a government classified clearance, its level is of no business of yours.  Ms. Fissinger is implying a couple of things here:  that this group they were snooping after is located at a federal facility, or that it’s no coincidence that I work near where this group is supposedly located, implying I’m part of this group or I run it.  First, I’m not part of Longmont Leadership or any other group.  Second of all, I’m reporting this to FAA Security.  Based on the content of that communication, it appears one or all of these three are casing this federal installation and making assumptions of what goes on there.  They don’t take too kindly to that kind of thing, I can assure you.

Lastly, regardless of anything else, this sort of activity is way over the line – and these communications make it clear that Karen Benker is directing these citizens to carry out her dirty work for her.  Even if it means driving by peoples homes, businesses, places of employment, or digging up homeowner information.  It’s not a stretch to assume they have their own “enemies list” and the ends justify the means.

I haven’t written much about candidate Fissinger as I think the only thing saving her from finishing dead last in this race is that there’s another candidate who isn’t campaigning at all.  As far as Karen Benker, she’s proven to be one of the more loathesome politicians this city has seen in recent memory.  If this doesn’t prove that, I don’t know what does.

So, the moral to this story: speak up or make your opinion known and the political attack police (currently headed up by Karen Benker apparently) will come after you in whatever way they deem necessary to meet their objectives.  The Election Committee/LFCPA is just one tool in their arsenal, who knows what else there is.  Why don’t you ask the people above, I’m sure they’re interested in transparency.

(UPDATE-1) Ms. Benker got the 600 incorrect address from the flier that apparently had the wrong address on it.  Regardless of that, Longmont Leadership Committee’s address is on file with the City Clerks Office and website.

(UPDATE-2) I was notified that the original email from Kaye Fissinger (pictured at right) was forwarded to the City Clerk, but wasn’t included in the complaint.  It helps make sense of the 3rd email when Ms. Fissinger says “it’s also the address of Longmont Leadership” where I got the impression she was talking about some other entity.  That entity that they were snooping on, in addition to Longmont Leadership and where I work, was No Blank Check Longmont who is advocating against Ballot Question 2C.  Here is the email: “Who are these people opposing 2C on No Blank Checks  Longmont?  I don’t recognize the names.  Are they even from Longmont? Kaye ”  And then she names every supporter on that website, this was sent to “Undisclosed Recipeints”, Karen Benker being one of them.

Thanks to our City Clerk for the above updated information and corrections.

(UPDATE-3) From Times-Call comment section “Why didn’t I see this before: The “M” in Karen M. Benker must be “MILHOUS“! Let it be known from this point on. If an elected official is going to direct people to go spying on their political opponents, this is how they will be properly tagged. This shoe fits.”

Here comes the astroturfing

Citizens of Longmont, prepare.  You’re about to be astroturfed!
(If you need a definition of astroturfing, here’s the definition according to Wikipedia)
I’m sure you’ve heard of grassroots efforts.  Well, the opposite of that, the manufactured kind of fake support is fake grass, aka astroturf.  The Obama-bots and their arm Organizing For America are the Houston Astros of astroturfing, fakery and fraud down to an art form.  I’m sure you’ve seen their signs that are uniform in color and design (and intentionally so, to look like Obama’s campaign signs) at various events where they inject themselves, usually uninvited.
Well, now the mother party is injecting themselves into our local non-partisan city council race.  According to the Longmont Dim(wit)s, er Dems – “participate in a lit drop for the 3 Democratic City Council candidates.” They don’t name those 3 City Council candidates, but we’ll assume it’s Karen Benker, Kaye Fissinger, and Bill Van Dusen based on previous articles here and there.
Funny how I heard these same types complain when some candidates went to a Republican Women forum (they despise women with differing views) crying foul that political parties shouldn’t get involved.  After this I don’t want to hear any more of this hypocritical double standard swill that they peddle endlessly.  Some of these same candidates that went to the Republican function went to the Longmont Area Democrat forum, where they had to endure a number of questionably hand picked questions.
So look for literature to drop on a porch near you.  I’m sure their candidates names will look really attractive in Obama Blue with the same fonts and catch phrases.  Their meeting to discuss this will be at the Longmont Public Library on Oct 17 at 9:00am.  Don’t expect to be allowed in.  This is a secret society after all.

Transparency a problem for Benker’s hero Ritter, too

You’ll notice on Karen Benker’s website under “Experience” a photo of her with Colorado governor Bill Ritter.  Well, birds of a feather, etc…
In the October 6, 2009 Denver Post a story of some of his own transparency issues.

Does it just run in the blood of these people to be dishonest and devious?

Times-Call Guest Opinion, printed Oct. 6, 2009: Deeds are Nothing for Council to Toot Horn About

Forgive me for shedding my rose-colored glasses. Somewhere between having children and paying a mortgage I seem to have misplaced them. You can call me what you will. “Old Guard”, pessimistic, a glass-half-empty sort. I’m actually a pragmatic realist who calls it like she sees it. I’m sorry if that isn’t civil to admit.

I’m afraid the recent guest opinion “Focus on what council has accomplished” has some glaring omissions and some gross misrepresentations of fact. First, I’ll address the majority of council’s (aka The Bloc’s) “accomplishments” as touted by the recent piece and then delve into some “accomplishments” that seem to have been forgotten.

  • Heralding a balanced budget as an accomplishment seems hollow as a balanced budget is required by law. If anyone deserves credit it is our City Staff, which has worked tirelessly trying to balance this budget as the bloc goes back and forth, hemming and hawing over making cuts or inventing fees (which is to say, levying taxes, but in such a manner that skirts a public vote). And frankly, furloughing city workers is probably not a selling-point to those workers. It certainly isn’t to me.
  • Taking credit for Circle Capital’s GE deal is either a gross misrepresentation of truth or a wholly naive understanding of business deals. Did the city offer tax breaks to GE that I am unaware of? I don’t think so, but if they did it was after they signed a lease with Circle Capital. I’m wondering what part of that deal they cut, or are they just taking credit for one of the few bright news items lately?
  • Attempting to take credit for an unfinished agreement with RTD on a deal that increasingly looks to be dying (Longmont’s FasTracks) isn’t exactly a fait accompli. And I think the whole town is pretty well-aware of the roadblocks erected by the bloc for Pannatoni’s mall redevelopment the past couple years.
  • The Shop Local Longmont campaign appears to be a dusted off version of a Chamber campaign from the 80’s. The real problem lies with claiming there are incentives involved. There are no incentives, it is an ad campaign that encourages local shopping. Which would be easier for all of us to do if they’d actually aided a mall redevelopment.
  • Dissolution of the Clover Basin Fire District Tax has not been finalized. Plus, it spreads the cost of the district to the whole city versus the homebuyers in the district who benefit from it and agreed to fund it when they chose to purchase there.

I will grant that some of the accomplishments listed have been attained. More parking spaces on Main. Undeniable. Increased recycling? Yep, good! Coffee with the public? Indeed! (Although whether they are actually considering input from attendees is open to interpretation. But hey, they are helping out local coffee shops on Saturdays, so that’s good.)

And now I am afraid it would be irresponsible not to mention some of the other verifiable “accomplishments” that are oft overlooked by their supporters:

  • Set a record for lawsuits accumulated. Three! Count ‘em, three, folks! Including one that is now a FEDERAL First Amendment case! It’s a hat trick, and I defy any other community’s council around here to boast such a feat.
  • An unprecedented raid of our streets and water funds to acquire open space that the open space fund can’t afford (maintenance fees to be worried about later, evidently).
  • $150k committed to study train noise. Here’s a tip: trains are noisy because they have government mandated safety horns. Saving that $150k on the study could have kept those furloughed workers working (a touted savings of $145k) with five grand to spare! Plus, I will not even charge a dime for that information: more savings!
  • Wasted around $14k on a rodent fence at the airport that was an immediate failure in protecting both aircraft and the federal grant money at stake for maintenance. Added bonus accomplishment? The new fence has increased danger to both aircraft and wildlife by acting as perches for large birds of prey!
  • Refused to fund LAVA in the way voters approved, instead deciding 25% of the money LAVA earned would be better spent in their general fund.
  • Ok’d some chickens in backyards.
  • Studied some traffic.

I respectfully submit the above clarifications to the citizens of Longmont to decide for themselves what the majority of council has accomplished.

Benker outwitted by Witt in Chamber debate

Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forum and Debate / September 30, 2009
Ward 2 candidate portion featuring Karen Benker & Katie Witt
Below are some observations of the recent debate you won’t find anywhere else.  While there were video cameras present, so far no videos of this debate has surfaced anywhere.  I have a full audio recording of this event and have made comments based on that recording, but also the feel of the debate since I attended it, and the general consensus and comments of people in the room.  This Ward 2 race in particular is one of the most watched races not just in the city, but has also been the subject of stories in Boulder and Denver publications.
This race pits incumbent council member and Mayor Pro Tem Karen Benker against candidate Katie Witt.  Much can be found online at their websites about each candidate.  The Times-Call story about this was slim on the events of this debate, I assume due to space limitations. It was much more interesting than the impression that story left, to me anyway.  Some of the quotes are paraphrased but gets the gist of the intent.
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Opening Statements
Karen Benker: Her “Tell you about myself” segment went through her resume of a lifetime government bureaucrat.  Not much else.  Did not say why she was running or why she wanted to remain in office.
Katie Witt:  Introduced herself and said why she was running.  “Prosperity, Honesty, and Opportunity” was her theme.  Make tough budget decisions in a timely manner, based on what’s best for Longmont and not political expediency.  Need a council that doesn’t bully neighbors with lawsuits.  And doesn’t hold endless secret meetings or ignoring open records act.  Get mall going again.
ADVANTAGE:  Katie Witt, for the reasons stated above.
Question: How do envision the relationship between City Council and local businesses and state one area that needs improvement.
Karen Benker:  First part was so quiet as to be unintelligible.  Once again read a laundry list of what council and staff has done.  I can only assume her point was that “here’s what we’ve done, and plan on continuing to do the same.” 
Katie Witt:  Council needs to stop being obstructionists.  Agreed with Councilmember Benker that mall is important, but so is the budget.  Thought it was a “gigantic fail” not moving forward with the first phase of development of the mall.  Said there was micromanaging going on and council wanted to dictate too much, which is not their job.  Should have listened more to our own Planning and Zoning Commission.  Need to rebuild trust with the community.
ADVANTAGEKatie Witt
Question:  On the topic of economic vitality, there are several organizations in the city, such as the LAEC, the LDDA, Small Business Development Center and many more that are designed to promote economic vitality.  What is your plan to encourage the city and these organizations to work toward a common goal for economic vitality in Longmont?
Katie Witt:  The job of city council is to encourage all of these organizations to work in the same direction.  We’ve seen in the past turf wars into who’s doing what.  We need to bring businesses to Longmont, and keep them here.  Each of those organizations has a role.  Forming Economic Development Department was important.  She struggled on this one, a little too vague.
Karen Benker:  Mentioned Shop Local Longmont as a way the city has worked with different organizations.  Discussed her role on the LDDA in this area.  Mentioned LAVA.
Rebuttal – Katie Witt:  People want to shop local but there aren’t a whole lot of options.  Mentioned the Mall again in this context.  Sams Club.  High end shopping opportunities.  “Mall is canary in a coalmine” as an indicator of the success of the city.  Until the mall is fixed it will discourage businesses from coming to Longmont.
Rebuttal – Karen Benker:  Agreed the mall is the most important issue facing the city.  She asked people to put aside what they currently see at the mall as the city has a much larger vision for it.  (If I were the council member of the ward the mall resides in, I’d beg voters to overlook the current condition of the mall, too)  Mentioned FasTracks station at the mall.
ADVANTAGE:  Katie Witt finished stronger after a sluggish start, but slight edge to Karen Benker.
QUESTION:  What is your specific solution to solve Longmont’s budget shortfall?
Karen Benker:  Whispers at beginning, unintelligible.  Cut 46 city positions.  Unintelligible about employee cuts and furloughs.  Increased fees, consolidated 8 departments down to 6.  Cut capital expenditures and one time expenditures to balance the budget.  Council is struggling to be fair to residents while at the same time providing city services.
Katie Witt:  Drop the lawsuit with Firestone.  City had an option but used litigation instead of intergovernmental agreements.  Spent $139k in court costs (actually much higher) plus $300k in Firestone’s court costs that we are on the hook for.  Said “grown ups” don’t go litigation route but instead work out our differences through communication.  Council keeps putting off the decisions necessary to work out the budget.  Some things need to be put on hiatus.  Need to be as transparent about how we spend our money.  City’s checkbook should be online.
Rebuttal – Karen Benker:  Tried to put into perspective the lawsuit amount to the overall budget.  Got testy about getting out the red pen saying “we’ve already done that”.  Used the scare tactic of closing down the library and senior center, disagreed that those weren’t essential services (but Katie Witt didn’t mention the library or senior center as places to cut).
Rebuttal – Katie Witt:  Doesn’t want city council to play “political hopscotch” with special interests and make decisions based on who they like and who they don’t like (Thistle, Panattoni).  City council needs to make decisions based on the most efficient use of our resources, which hasn’t been done.  Used recent example of indecision on council over fees.  Fee’s impact people. 
ADVANTAGEKatie Witt.  She got Karen Benker on the defensive and testy about the Firestone lawsuit and budget cutting.
QUESTION:  The current city council once stated that this is a council that gets things done, do you agree with this statement?
Katie Witt:  Does not agree with this statement.  It doesn’t take an expert in any sort of field to recognize our mall is stalled, and our downtown area has a lot of room for improvement.  Hallmarks of this council has been divisiveness, not decisiveness.  Micromanaging.  Studies, which are great if you’re willing to act on those studies, but council is wasting money on researching questions and not acting.  “Paralysis of analysis”.  Need fresh perspective, different face across the table.  Transparency.  Wants Longmont to live up to its potential.  Currently spinning its wheels.  Attitude in the city comes from the top down and people take their cues from what’s going on on city council.
Karen Benker:  “We brought GE and almost 200 jobs to Longmont”.  Supplier to Vestas, Western Digital, single stream recycling, balanced the budget, affordable senior housing, purchased open space, ended Clover Basin tax, Main St initiatives, revitalize Longmont Theater, summer concert series.  Increased downtown parking.
Rebuttal – Katie Witt:  “I would really like to know what the city council did to woo GE here” (audible clap from crowd).  To Karen Benker she asked what her part was.
Rebuttal – Karen Benker:  Hard to hear initial answer, something about $180k/year, but she restated she’s a member of LAEC (called it the Longmont Area Economic Development Council).  Said that city staff and resources support LAEC (funds were actually cut by this council), again said she was a board member of LAEC.
ADVANTAGE:  Katie Witt.  Karen Benker once again read a laundry list of things the city has done, not what she has done.  Caught flat footed on the GE question and struggled.  Katie Witt went after the procrastination of this council.  Had there been a second rebuttal, Karen Benker left a wide opening with her LAEC comments.
AUDIENCE QUESTION:  Ward 2 resident asked why Karen Benker keeps saying she ended the Clover Basin Fire District fee as nothing has been signed (technically true).  Karen Benker:  Council voted 7-0 to end this tax (false statement, they voted 7-0 for staff to draft a resolution), said “last night voted on minor details” (not minor, Clover Basin residents have to cover the $4k to $10k fee to dissolve the district).  Reiterated the tax will end January 1st.  (Not on agenda for Oct 6th meeting, this question/answer couldn’t have gone much worse for Karen Benker)
AUDIENCE QUESTION:  How much will shutting down this district contribute to the budget gap – directed at Karen Benker.
Karen Benker:  talked about the millions of dollars those residents have paid, gave history of tax.  City will be picking up small amount to extinguish the debt they owe the city.  (Did NOT answer question, around $275,000)
AUDIENCE QUESTION:  Question about the boundaries of Ward 2.
AUDIENCE QUESTION:  There was an attack push poll ad poll conducted “in your name” (Katie Witt).  It’s not how we need to do politics in this town.  Asked if Katie Witt was going to report that on her campaign report.  (This speaker was later seen leaving the event with Ms. Benker, and obvious plant)
Katie Witt – She said in contentious races things get out of candidates control.  She apologized but did not know who did it, has no way of getting in touch with those individuals, or she would tell them to stop.  She asked whoever was doing it to not do it.  Mentioned another phone call that went out that she didn’t know about or approve of.  Said there are a lot of people concerned with what’s going on with city council right now and they’re trying to make people aware.  Unfortunately they are using tactics she would not personally use or approve of.
ADVANTAGE:  Katie Witt.  Karen Benker falsely answered one of the questions, and didn’t answer the other one at all.  Katie Witt answered a leading accusatory statement and question pretty thoroughly.
OVERALL DEBATE WINNERKatie Witt 5-1 on opening statement and answers. 
Karen Benker was stiff, rarely smiled, often spoke too softly to be heard or understood.  She was put on the defensive on the second question and her demeanor from that point on was one of irritation.  She mostly went down her list of “accomplishments” from her brochure and website, didn’t really talk to the audience, but mostly read to them.
Katie Witt had a strong opening statement, stood up to do it, read off some cards, but not overly so.  She stumbled during the second question on business development and was too general and vague, not a good thing in front of business leaders at a Chamber of Commerce function. 
After this point, Ms. Benker could have capitalized and cruised through the rest of the debate as she had Ms. Witt on the ropes.  The next question should have been an easy one for Ms. Benker involving the budget shortfall and how to handle it.  But she went into a shell, spoke too timidly, and starting going down a list of items in a fairly dull manner.  Ms. Witt immediately went on the attack and it pretty much set the tone for the remainder of the debate.
One of the rare quotes used in the rather lackluster Times-Call coverage of this debate was Ms. Benker saying the council had already got out the red pen to cut the budget.  What wasn’t mentioned was the context of that comment, what brought it on, and how Ms. Benker was put on the defensive starting with that question and from that point on.  Ms. Benker really never answered the question of what her solution to the budget problem was, just what council has done up to this point.  Not much future vision.
Ms. Witt was blunt in some of her answers about council not getting much done, and Ms. Benker response was another laundry list read off, not very inspiring, and got caught with her mentioning GE again and later on about taking credit for ending the Clover Basin tax.  Those were two major glaring errors for Ms. Benker.  The audience questions were 2-1 hostile towards Ms. Benker, and the hostile question to Ms. Witt was something she claimed she had nothing to do with.
I had heard about how supposedly smooth and experienced Ms. Benker is/was.  I saw her at the Longmont Area Democrat forum as well and did not see any kind of smoothness or better than average public speaking ability – and that was in front of a friendly crowd.  This Chamber crowd has some built in hostility towards the often anti-business, and nearly always anti-LAEC attitude of Ms. Benker (along with her fellow council members McCoy, Levison, and Hansen).  I still thought she would at least stay even or ahead of Ms. Witt in this debate.
After Ms. Witt stumbled on the second question I figured it was going to be a long 30-40 minutes for her and a major blow to her campaigns chances of unseating Ms. Benker.  But she turned it around and was much more poised and a better public speaker than Ms. Benker.  Ms. Benker was often morose and appeared moody, Ms. Witt by comparison was fired up and throwing everything just short of the kitchen sink at Ms. Benker.  While Ms. Witt did roll her eyes a couple of times, her attitude was not nasty.
Basically, Ms. Benker came across as a cold, detached, emotionless bureaucrat and politician.  Ms. Witt came across as the every-woman concerned citizen with the luxury of having Ms. Benkers record to take one shot after another at – and often scoring direct hits. 
This debate was really the only debate these candidates will have.  The Times-Call Candidate Forum will not be a debate, and should be much less stressful.  This Chamber debate had a very large crowd, bright lights, video cameras, and many of the movers, shakers, and decision makers in the community.  This venue was larger and more of a pressure cooker than I expected.

While Ms. Witt greatly helped her chances, I can’t imagine even the most die-hard Benker supporter being thrilled with their candidates overall performance at this event.

(Picture source: Times-Call)