Longmont Mayor Election analysis

The 2009 Longmont Election had four council seats up for grabs, including the office of Mayor.  Running for re-election was long time councilmember and one term mayor, Roger Lange.  There was some chatter that he couldn’t run for mayor due to term limits, but it didn’t get much traction, I never gave it much credit, and it became a moot point as it turns out.  Initially, Dan Benavidez announced he was running, but dropped out before collecting petitions.  Jeff Thompson did collect enough signatures, ran for a short while, but then also dropped out of the race.  Eventually, the race boiled down to two candidates, Roger Lange and late into the race was political newcomer Bryan Baum. Continue reading

Longmont At-Large Election analysis

There were two city council seats up for grabs in the 2009 Longmont At-Large race.  Everyone in the city was eligible to vote in this race, and got to pick two candidates.  Those candidates were: Gabe Santos (Incumbent At-Large councilmember), Alex Sammoury, Bill Van Dusen, Kaye Fissinger, and Ed Dloughy.  The two candidates who received the most votes were elected.  The final tally came out like this:

Santos        11,048  36.38%
Sammoury   8,149  26.83%
Van Dusen    5,408  17.81%
Fissinger        4,832  15.91%
Dloughy            934  3.08% Continue reading

2007 Progressive experiment has failed

Here is my Guest editorial that ran in the Tuesday October 27, 2009 Times-Call.  I didn’t title this piece, but they did:
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Vote Out The Progressives
The “2007 Progressive Experiment” in Longmont has failed.  At least it’s been entertaining to watch and write about, but to the detriment of the city as a whole.  We can’t say we didn’t give it a try, but this regressive Progressive majority on city council has proven to be a real loser of an idea and voters need to undo the mistake of 2007.To refresh memories, in 2007 Longmont had a block of candidates take over the majority of city council.  This majority includes Sean McCoy, Brian Hansen, Sarah Levison, and Karen Benker – who actually was soundly defeated in her quest for Mayor, but unfortunately remained in office.  Mr. Hansen and Ms. Levison squeaked in with less than a majority and mostly due to third candidates who split the vote.  Mr. McCoy won by a majority, but Ms. Benker lost by a majority.Even to the bloc’s most strident supporters, they must agree these have been two very divisive and controversial years.  They have also been two very unproductive years rife with costly lawsuits, dwindling tax revenues, and furloughed city employees.  Our council meetings are often 4 hour marathons that end with bickering and indecision.  Procrastination is their credo.

Therefore, a clean sweep and removal of all council members in office prior to 2008 needs to occur.  Mary Blue is retiring, which is a shame as she’s been an exception and an exemplary representative.  Gabe Santo’s joined the council in January 2008 and has often been the sole dissenting vote on some of the bloc’s more ridiculous maneuvers – and deserves to be retained in his at-large seat.

Unfortunately, Council members McCoy, Hansen, and Levison are not up for re-election.  But they can be dealt with in 2 years, or sooner via recall.  Candidates Fissinger, Benker, and Van Dusen are more of the same of the failed regressive Progressive majority we now find ourselves saddled with.  Voters should learn from past mistakes and not repeat them with these candidates.

Mayor Lange, who I respect, admire, and have always supported and voted for in every race he’s even run, has tilted one too many times in favor of this failed bloc.  The denied motion and second (from Santos and Blue, respectively) to end the losing battle with Firestone and LifeBridge was the straw that broke the camels back for me and many other citizens.  When Firestone came to Longmont with an offer of the land that would meet Longmont’s request for this so-called buffer, which in reality is a red herring that doesn’t now nor will ever exist, Mayor Lange and this council turned them away, proving to me this was nothing more than an expensive turf war and an attempt to financially bleed Firestone and LifeBridge.  I’m not a member of that church or a resident of Firestone, but this act was appalling.

Unlike other council members who have been downright rude to me in the presence of my children, Mayor Lange has indelibly left a positive impression on one of my sons to which we are eternally grateful.  While I can’t support him in this race for the other reasons above, I will also not engage in mudslinging or negative attacks that might benefit his opponent, Bryan Baum, who I support.

The same cannot be said for Karen Benker.  Some cities have elected donkeys, dogs, or hoboes to city council.  I would back such a candidate in opposition to Ms. Benker.  Alright, my tongue is slightly planted “in cheek” with that comment, but the actual sentiment is not too far off.  Ms. Benker is basically the leader of the bloc, and as such, sets the tone for the bitter divisiveness the bloc embodies.  A vote for her is a vote for the failed last two years.  About the only thing Ms. Benker has on Katie Witt is her so-called experience.  But this experience has not resulted in a better outcome for the citizens of Longmont.

I would also argue Ms. Benker’s “experience” when she was Ms. Witt’s age was probably similar to Ms. Witt’s now.  Everybody has to start somewhere.  Incumbency and a self-inflated resume shouldn’t be the main deciding factor in who’s more fit to serve.  Sometimes a fresh outlook and differing life experiences breathe new life into an otherwise stale and stagnant situation.  Unfortunately, this current council majority is worse than stagnation, it’s actually regressing.

So consider the past and the future when you cast your vote, and not some selfish allegiance of what you think a candidate is or isn’t.  And there’s really no good reason not to vote, please exercise this right.

LA026: Police & firefighter unionization, Brandon Shaffer no friend to voters, and Longmont becoming laughing stock

October 20, 2008 Show

Oxygen by Dusty Hughes

Longmont 2A – Collective bargaining of police and fire employees Times-Call Editorial rebuttal by Mike Violette/CO FOP  www.longmontpolice.com Continue reading

In The Pocket?

Something I’ve put off commenting about is brewing under the surface and hinted at in various places in the Times-Call and the internet. Were four councilmembers (Benker, Hansen, McCoy, and Levison) bought and paid for by special interests?

Much was made of candidate, now councilmember, Gabe Santos receiving a contribution of $5,000 by the Longmont Association of Realtors in January, 2008. As far as I can tell, I haven’t seen any proposed ordinances or resolutions brought forward in the name of this organization, so obviously there’s not been a vote. Nevermind, it takes more than a lone vote on council to pass such a thing.

On the other hand, there has been a major issue brought forward that could change our city charter and at the very least will cost the city thousands of dollars in a special election: collective bargaining for certain police and fire employees. I advocated for this group in 2004, and am leaning towards voting their way once again this year, so this has nothing to do with pro or anti-union positions. As hard as it may be, put that aside for the sake of this discussion.

Let’s look at the hard numbers: Karen Benker received a $1,500 cash donation and a $266.75 endorsement advertisement from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). Brian Hansen received a $500 cash donation and the same $266.75 ad buy. Sean McCoy received a $1,000 cash donation and the same $266.75 ad buy from the Longmont Police Officers Assocation (LPOA). Sarah Levison received a $1,000 cash donation from the LPOA, but I can’t find an ad buy. No other candidates received these donations, and I’ve been told all were interviewed. This is a grand total of $4,800.25.

Since this is not a partisan group (some would argue that point), like one of the political parties (we’re supposed to have a non-partisan electoral structure in Longmont), I don’t have too many issues with these donations. But when these same four councilmembers went after Gabe Santos for his contribution based on what might occur, perhaps they were thinking of what they might do with such a contribution, and now have done precisely that. They’ve proven their own case that money could corrupt city politics.

When the unionization concept was brought to council on first reading, these four didn’t much question the language, all four voted for it with little hesitation. The other three members of council (Lange, Blue, and Santos) had specific concerns and questions, and the players (FD/FD, city staff, attorneys) had meetings and hammered out something more palatable and something with a higher likelihood of voter approval. But Benker, McCoy, Hansen, and Levison had nothing to do with that, they liked it just the way it was. In a twisted way, the collective bargaining team just upped their odds by working on what the three dissenting votes had to say. Not the four they contributed to.

A big concern that’s been conveyed to me, and I agree, is that this vote may become a referendum on city council, these four members in particular. It’s not fair to our police and fire employees to be saddled with that. If that’s truly a concern amongst voters, especially those in favor of this collective bargaining, how about separating it out and just have a flat out recall of these four members?

Yeah, I know, fat chance and a little extreme. But I do have an easier alternative: each of these four councilmembers make $1,000 a month for the service they provide, and don’t get me wrong, as much as I tear into them (and previous councils as well, for those that have forgotten), they do put in a lot of their own time in their elected positions. I suggest, to avoid any suggestion of impropriety, and to truly help the police and fire employees they claim to support, that these four councilmembers forego enough of their stipend equal to these contributions and put it back into the General Fund.

This isn’t a pledge I expect them to take, but what a message it would send if they did. What political harm could it do? And if they’re adamantly opposed to this idea, you should ask why. It could help our fine police and fire employees, our hurting budget, and send a clear message that council is not for sale.