Candidates Forum: 3rd Parties

On October 1st, the Times-Call sponsored a Candidate Forum at Longmont High School, it was a fairly interesting night. I assume the televised version won’t quite capture some of the more interesting moments inside and outside of the auditorium, and the sound quality was abysmal throughout.

There’s plenty to talk about when it comes to this event, but the Times-Call has already had some reporting on it, so I’ll shed a different light on it.

Our city’s non-partisan nature when it comes to City Council is a favorite subject of mine, I’ve written about it plenty of times and is a system I agree with. As I was watching and listening to the candidates, I wondered what it would be like to have all politics non-partisan in nature. To take the candidates at face value with no party attached to them and the baggage that includes. If you watch the TV replay of the various debates that occurred that night, think about it how you’d react if either there were no political parties, or if you had no idea which party any of the speakers were members of.

Quite often at these events, the most colorful and entertaining speakers are the third party candidates. This event was no different. Whether I agreed with their platforms or not, I made a point of trying to meet these speakers and tell them good luck and good job on their performance and passion. Names that come to mind from past events like this are Ralph Shnelvar and our own Paul Tiger. This time, speakers of interest were J.A. Calhoun, Bob Kinsey, and Douglas “Dayhorse” Campbell. Their party affiliation? If you need to know, look it up.

I’m no Pollyanna and know parties are probably here to stay, for better or worse. But it was nice to see old time politics, if only in my own mind, probably the way our founding fathers meant it to be, with candidates making their case, sometimes with great emotion and occasionally with humor. In that regard, they were all winners.

So, read up on your candidates and issues, and get out and vote. Like one of the slogans on the back of my old Wrongmont golf shirts said: “A Vote Is a Terrible Thing to Waste.”

Next up, how partisanship shapes our local government.

Disrespect From The Podium

At the July 29th Longmont City Council meeting, the issue of putting Police and Firefighter unionization on the ballot was the hot issue. There’s lots to talk about (and lots of audio to pull from this meeting for my next podcast), but I’ll just hit a couple initially.

I watched the entire thing, there were lots of speakers, from both sides. Before I go much further, I’ll remind people I was one of the PD/FD’s biggest supporters for their 2004 drive. My old Wrongmont link is still on their website to this day. I’ve been a union member in open and closed shops for over 27 years, so save the history lesson and emotional speeches. Now, as they say, with all that being said…

I thought each side made very good points, some spoke better than others. I could almost say I feel strongly both ways on this issue, not something I normally say, and probably won’t advocate either way. Make up your own minds.

But I will say the most compelling and convincing presentation was by Police Chief Mike Butler. It was mostly for nothing as it appeared those that voted in favor of the union had made up their minds long before he made his statements. But there was one speaker for the union side who got my attention the most, FOP President Stephen Shulz. He spoke fairly eloquently and had a good command of his organizations positions. But he blew it at one point, to me anyway, with his obvious lack of respect for an elected official, Councilmember Gabe Santos.

The question was asked why now, why again, after the union vote defeat in 2004. Mr. Shulz brought up Mr. Santos’ defeat in the November election, why did/should he run again? There are so many differences in these two scenarios, not to mention the total unprofessional behavior of a city employee towards a city policy maker. First off, Mr. Santos lost by a 46% to 41% margin, not a majority win by Sarah Levison. The unionization vote of 2004 lost by a 55% to 44% margin, much to my chagrin. Not a landslide, but a fairly clear majority.

Secondly, what did Mr. Santos’ two campaigns cost the city? Candidates self fund their campaigns, either from their own accounts or from contributors. In both elections, the city had to fill vacant positions, it wasn’t optional. In the union’s case, they will be the only Longmont related issue on the ballot (said at the City Council meeting), it is optional, and will cost the city about $75,000. I don’t recall Mr. Santos’, or any candidate, demanding not only to be put on the ballot, but also have the city pick up the tab. But that’s what the FOP is asking for. I probably wouldn’t have brought that up, except for this unnecessary cheap shot during the council meeting.

It showed an arrogance, and an impression that the needed four votes were in the bag. Along those same lines, some councilmembers felt outraged that the opinion was floated that they were “bought off” for this vote, but I’ll save that for another time.

For now, someone needs to explain that if the FOP is willing to show that kind of attitude BEFORE there even is a bargaining contract, BEFORE the voters even have a say, why would any reasonable person believe that they won’t be even worse in negotiations IF/WHEN they achieve collective bargaining? I don’t like painting the FOP with this broad brush, and think they have some valid points, but Mr. Shulz repeatedly said he spoke for the FOP. Regardless if they won tonight, this behavior won’t score well with the voters.

Vote! Longmont


I’ve been a follower of politics since I was a teenager subscribing to Time Magazine. I was usually pretty good at picking winners of elections; I’d just follow trends, do a lot of reading, and follow my gut. Over the years I’ve made a hobby of picking presidential elections, getting better each time with 2004 topping out at correctly picking every state except one, Wisconsin, which was pretty close.

Apparently my interest in this stuff is not the norm based on low voter registration rates and turnouts come election time. Ever since starting up my Wrongmont rantings, an ongoing theme has been to hold elected officials accountable, and one great way is to vote them IN to office, or vote them OUT.

At times it appears interest is on the rise based on more people showing up at City Council meetings, petition drives, and activist groups. But the steady decline in voter activity has continued. I figured talk with calls to action wasn’t enough, so I took the next step and got certified as a Voter Registration Drive by the Colorado Secretary of State. You need this certification to collect voter registration forms, try it without this, it’s all bad.

I also built a website with links and phone numbers to make it as easy as possible for people to find out their registration status and fix it if need be. My wife Brigette has also gotten us a choice location at Longmont’s Rhythm On The River event this summer. We’re looking at other venues to set up a table and get people registered.

Within a day of making the front page with our smiling faces on the Times-Call, we started getting emails and phone calls. My wife helped get info to an 18 year old working a McDonalds drive-thru window who was registering for the first time in his life. I spoke to a 90 year old gentleman who called our home. He had just moved and was unsure of his registration status, so my wife mailed him a form, some instructions, and a self-addressed stamped envelope with the Boulder County Clerks address on the front.

Since then we’ve received emails and calls from people who may think WE are the Boulder County Clerk, not this self-funded little operation. One in particular saw our story but had no internet capabilities, so I just gave her the direct number to the county clerk. It’s been fun so far and we’ve only just begun which we hope will turn in to more voter registrations, and come election time it’ll turn into higher voter interest, and more importantly, TURNOUT.

Farewell To Wrongmont

4/1/08 – As of today, I’m ending Wrongmont.

It’s far from an end though, in many ways it’s a beginning, and quite a beginning on the horizon.

As some of you may have seen, I recently started a Voter Registration Drive effort called Vote Longmont. It came from my years of trying to get people to pay more attention to their local community and government. So it was one offshoot of Wrongmont, and I think an important one. It will take up a fair amount of my time and money, but hopefully it will be worth it in higher registrations and turnout.

I’ve also been invited to join a fairly large media operation to write on subjects having to do with Longmont. It pays, not enough to be a second job, but I’m flattered to be considered. Prior to this offer, I had already been working on a much larger project than Wrongmont in scope and reach. The timing of this is total coincidence, but you know what they say about coincidences.

I’m well aware of the perceived connotations to the name “Wrongmont”, and that is partly the reason for the change, but not totally. After people read my stuff or got to know me, both online and personally, they got to see that I was actually a Longmont supporter and booster. Even friends who would agree with what I was saying, still after all these years, didn’t really care for the name. And those that didn’t know me, it maybe left a bad first impression. I thought it was snappy, a little sarcastic and witty (like myself), and easy to remember and type into a browser.

But I also knew there were limitations with the name, and what people thought it meant. I don’t like limitations, especially self inflicted ones.

Without giving too much away, I’m hoping my new project will interest people in wanting to participate. I will cover a wide variety of issues and topics and welcome outside submissions, as long as its Longmont related as much as possible. One example is I will showcase local talent, and I already have at least one band interested in taking part.

Local politics will still remain a large part of what is covered, but will be done in a much more interesting and entertaining way, at least that’s the goal. The rest, you’ll just have to wait. But whatever it is, and to whomever wants to take part, it will reach a larger audience than any other avenue I’ve used prior – combined. A hint: The Yellow Scene once said of me ” By founding Wrongmont.com, Rodriguez became one of EastCounty‘s early independent publishers.” The plan is to eclipse that. I’m not interested in standing still, no matter how comfortable it may be.

What’s ahead is daunting and challenging, mainly because I’m not willing to do things half-a, well you know. And if it just doesn’t work out, well, I guess you could consider this an April Fools joke.

While the name may change, the promise I made to myself and to my friend, the late Jeff Sands, remains.

(Illegal) signs of desperation?

A couple of weeks ago I was going to write a piece about the lack of candidate signs around town. Since then I’ve seen some sprouting up. Anyone else notice these signs in places you don’t normally see these placed? Like in railroad track right-of-ways, landscaped areas not in front of homes, or greenways in front of businesses. In other words, places you wouldn’t or couldn’t ask the property owners permission. You can read the ordinance yourself at http://www.ci.longmont.co.us/code_enf/ord/political_signs.htm. Longmont’s Code Enforcement Division is supposed to enforce this. It appears either they are choosing not to, or they are making a half-hearted attempt to remove some signs, only to have other improperly placed signs replace them.

I can only report what I see with my own eyes, and all of these signs so far are Richard Juday signs. Knowing this statement will elicit cries from his supporters of ” attack” or ” partisanship” (in a non-partisan election), let me educate some of them with a little flash from the past.

Excerpts from the October 2004 edition of The Yellow Scene (used with permission) “…Longmont’s city council are bending rules of their own to sway votes on November’s municipal ballot issue…we agree with Chris Rodriguez, webmaster of www.wrongmont.com who noted that Pirnack’s letter in the September (2004) issue of CityLine crosses the line… CityLine is the city’s monthly newsletter included with residents’ utility bills…However, Mayor Pirnack used it to urge citizens to vote for FastTracks and against Ballot Question 2A, the proposed police and fire collective bargaining agreement. Rodriguez claims this letter breaks the Fair Campaign Practices Act which is part of our state constitution. That law states: No…council of the state or any political subdivision thereof shall…expend any public moneys from any source, or make any contributions, to urge electors to vote in favor of or against any: (A) State-wide ballot issue.. (B) Local ballot issue…The point is that if city council wants to campaign, they can do so on their own time and money. For public officials, spending taxpayer dollars to advocate a political position is against the law – even if they think it shouldn’t be.”

Pretty strong charges against our then Mayor and council, you know, the ones Mr. Juday’s supporters demanded had to go? So allow me to be ” equal opportunity” in calling bullflop on questionable campaign practices: Whoever is placing these Juday signs are knowingly or unknowingly placing them against city ordinance. I’m going with the former, as some are so blatantly displayed in places anyone used to seeing these signs can figure out they’re placed questionably.

Many have been up for over a week, and more keep getting erected. Are we to believe Mr. Juday or his supporters haven’t seen these (we’re talking major streets here) or aren’t aware of them? They are either aware of them, don’t live in Longmont, or are not very observant people. Let this get your attention: Each one is a separate violation for each day it stands. And the results of the election, win or lose, don’t change that.

Others have pointed out questionable financial disclosures in Mr. Juday’s filed campaign reports (not responded to), and his broken pledge not to accept monetary contributions (not responded to). Add these signs to the list. If someone can’t win honestly, not only do they deserve to lose, they don’t deserve to run.