Monday, February 27, 2017

Colorado's Economy is Vibrant...So Why is the Federal Government Attacking It?

Can you think of anything that might calm this man down?
$17,300,000,000 is what Colorado's tourism industry generated in 2016. There is no doubt that our state does well with its skiing, hiking, hunting and fishing industries.  But were you aware that since Colorado legalized the use of both medical and recreational marijuana, our state has increased its tourism significantly? Agree with it or not, people are curious to see what the buzz (pun intended) is all about in Colorado.

In 2016, the legal sales of marijuana in the state added $266,000,000 to our coffers.  That has done a great deal to improve Colorado's budgetary woes, especially in the area  of capital improvement in schools and helping the homeless.  Theses facts can be found in a great NPR interview from last year aimed at making people aware of how these tax dollars are spent. It is not going to completely heal our fiscal difficulties, especially since the prices for marijuana will begin to drop as more states fall into line with pot-friendly legislation, but there is no doubt it has helped a great deal.

In an October article in the Washington Post, the newspaper attempts to understand the impact on the states of Washington and Colorado after having legalized marijuana usage and possession amounts.  That article can be viewed here:   In a brief summary, both states have not had any significant negative fallout from the decisions.  Crime is slightly down.  Drug arrests are very much in a downward spiral.  Usage among teenagers has not gone up and might actually be going down.  Traffic accident rates involving pot have not gone up.  There is even some evidence to suggest that medical marijuana may dramatically help abate the crisis in this nation as it struggles with the worst opioid crisis in its history.

But President Trump sees things differently.  His appointment of former Senator Jeff Session as Attorney General marks a return to the policies that rank marijuana as a dangerous drug on a par with heroin.  It is expected that the AG will make moves to criminalize those who recreationally use marijuana by throwing them in jail as common criminals.  This is going to become a gigantic crisis here in our state as a significant number of Coloradoans  benefit from the legalized sale and usage of the substance.  Many people grow their own marijuana and it has led to a reduction of alcohol consumption, which is both hazardous and expensive.  Many are finding pain relief that is safe and effective requiring less uses of dangerous and often addictive prescription drugs.  Some people are finding that marijuana not only helps them solve sleeping problems without the dangerous side effects of drugs like Ambien.  And, there does not seem to be the debilitating impact of what drinkers painfully refer to as "hangovers."

So why are the new AG and President Trump so worried about the twenty-eight states that have relaxed laws on marijuana?  Perhaps you need look no further than the high paid lobbyists of the alcohol industry.  Perhaps you need look no further than the high paid lobbyists working for private prisons that need customers in the form of inmates.  You may even want to examine the lobbyists for Big Pharma who see the medical benefits of marijuana cutting into their profits.  If you think that my belief is that our new president and his appointed officials are doing this for nefarious purposes, you would be correct.

This states' rights argument comes up from time to time.  When it is convenient for the conservatives, they say leave it to the states to decide.  When it serves their corporate sponsors, the conservatives want the federal government to step in and do the dirty work for them.  President Trump, Colorado has decided as a state to loosen federal regulations on marijuana and we are doing just fine. If you criminalize us for what we have done here in Colorado, you may be in for a big surprise.

Personally, I don't use  alcohol or marijuana for recreational purposes.  I do have relatives who have abused alcohol and prescription drugs, resulting in death.  I do have relatives who have had pain issues and have become addicted to painkillers.  I have a number of  family members who battle insomnia and then have had horrifying side effects with drugs like Ambien. 

I live in arguably one of the most conservative counties in our state.  As a liberal Democrat I am in a minority of epic proportions.  Many of my friends, neighbors, and acquaintances in this county are conservative Republicans.  They may not publicly talk about the fact that they not only use marijuana, but  they grow marijuana for their own consumption.  In my opinion, they are not going to be happy about this decision.  This may be more of a problem than anyone might imagine when the government comes for their weed.  These are the same people who said that they would not remain silent if someone came for their guns (which nobody ever did).  It will be interesting to see what happens in this case.

Suffice it to say, if Sessions turns its forces loose on the people of Colorado for marijuana usage, there will be resistance from both side of the political aisle and the other states will be watching.  This is just one more attempt to divide the people of this nation and replace our cherished Democracy with authoritarian rule of law.  Resist.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Come one, come, unless you are not a republican

Okay, this is where you go if you want to learn all about Elbert County's strategic plan?  Really?  So let me get this straight.  If I, as a Democrat, or an Independent, or a member of any recognized party other than the Republican party, wish to go and learn about the new and improved strategic plan for the future of our county, I get to go to a "Town Hall Meeting" at the Elbert County Fairgrounds?  And…this love fest is being hosted by the Elbert County Conservative Breakfast Association.  Lucky me!  I would normally get to sit in a room full of conservatives who are eating a meal which costs $10 and listen to them bash Democrats between utterances such as, “Pass the salt,” “Hand me a napkin,” or “Where's that guy who was named after a bicycle seat?” God, you just have to love the arrogance of these people.  Now we get light snacks at the night meeting of the breakfast club.

This is not a town hall meeting.  This is a fund raiser for a host group that has absolutely no use for anyone with a viewpoint other than its own.  A town hall meeting is supposed to be held at the town hall.  You will notice when you say those two words out loud, there is no mention of a particular political party.  You see, we all get to pay taxes.  The Elbert County Commissioners work for all of the taxpayers, not just the ones who go to the Conservative Breakfast Association so they can support their party while simultaneously driving their cholesterol numbers through the ceiling.

I have written several blogs recently trying to tell people that nothing will ever change in Elbert County as long as we keep doing things the same way.  I have conceded that there will be no Democrats elected in the next umpty-eleven years.  There are simply not enough Democratic votes for that to happen.  Period.  The Conservative Breakfast Association is in no danger of having some leftist hijack their little party.  But that really isn't the point, is it now?  They not only do not want us to have anyone sporting a “D” holding office, they would rather we did not have any rights at all.  They want purity.  They despise diversity.  They do not give a rat's butt whether I get to talk to my commissioner.  My taxes are not as real as theirs.   Fine, I get it.  But it is not as easy as all that in the long run. 

I will repeat it for anyone who may still be reading at this point:  Elbert County has one commodity.  That commodity is water.  Elbert County is essentially a high desert.  There is a finite amount of water in a nonrenewable set of aquifers.  We are being besieged by a set of developers who will not build out here unless they can build water pipelines.  I do not care what you think you know about development, the value of the water beneath our feet far surpasses anything you can build on the surface above it.  Developers know it.  They also know that Elbert County is desperate for asphalt and commerce and jobs.  They always shout (along with this new set of commissioners) that in order to have your dreams come true, you must bring the rooftops. 

Don't you find it interesting that none of these people are interested in doing a current Cost of Services Analysis (CAS) to see if any of these proposed developments will even begin to pay for themselves?  

Independence, Ritoro, Spring Valley, and Wild Pointe are all wonderful names for developments that make promises that almost seem too good to be true.  Do you know why?  Because they are too good to be true!  If developers could make a buck out here they would have arrived years ago and completed their large projects.  Think about that for a moment.  The developers did not stop in Douglas County.  They were all over Arapahoe County.  Adams County has had tremendous growth over the years.  Why the hell have they bypassed Elbert County?  The answer is pretty simple.  Because up until now, they couldn't make any money at it.  Why now?  What has changed?  Did you really just think it was some kind of liberal plot keeping you from reaching developmental Nirvana? It is the fact that the price of water has now gone so high that it is now possible to make a killing on what remains in the Denver Bedrock Aquifers.

Let me remind you once again:  98% of us live on well and septic here in Elbert County.  Most of the people on well and septic in Elbert County are Republicans.  Do you honestly think that the people who are hosting the upcoming BOCC Sugarplums Vision Quest breakfast care if your well runs dry?  Do you think these pipelines that run both ways are only being put in to bring you water in the distant future when and if the aquifers run dry?  Why is it only now that pipelines are a part of the development equation?  Ask that of your breakfast waiter over at the fairgrounds, Sparky.  Ask them why our dear old former commissioner, Kurt Schlegel, is still lurking around every damned corner.  You do realize that Falcon and Douglas Counties desperately need our water, and reservoirs like Rueter-Hess are paying twice what they were just ten years ago to serve their customers.  Hell, those counties even have the money for it, but for the most part, we do not.  Once the water is pumped out, folks, they will sell it back to us at astronomical rates.

So, let’s get back to the conservative breakfast bunch and the anointed Republicans who believe their newly elected BOCC have their backs.  If these people do not want to hear from Elbert County citizens who will question them about simple things like a neutral place to hold a town hall-style meeting, what chance in hell do you have in getting their attention when your well goes dry?  Pass the syrup and pass the water pitcher there, brother.  I am feeling a bit parched.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Only One Person in a Hundred People Can Ace This Donald Trump Quiz! Can You?

The Supreme Court is Not What It Was Intended to be

Thoughtfully written by guest blogger, Tony Corrado

Traditionally, deliberative boards or committees are comprised of an odd number of members so that ties can be broken and a decision rendered.  The number of voting members is usually decided on the basis of the “importance” of the body itself. Thus a committee of one is sufficient to decide on what type of cupcake icing should be baked for sale at the local fair. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) was determined to be composed of nine members, because it’s decisions were possible, and likely, to have long lasting ramifications on the entirety of the US society. The members of such august bodies were generally chosen for their knowledge of the issues affecting society as well as their integrity in supporting their avowed mission, their oath of office  and their willingness to remove personal biases from the deliberative judicial process. The number of SCOTUS justices was intended to ensure a diversity of views and opinions. Divided opinions were supposed to show a diversity of support for the issues, not a politicized view.

This began to change as the nature of the SCOTUS was corrupted, as special interests and politics began to be the basis by which these “esteemed” persons were selected. Chief Justice Roberts was nominated after acting to secure the Bush vs Gore election decision in 2000. The SCOTUS has become more intensely political and irreparably harmed, with the decision by Senate Republicans to break the constitutional requirement to advise and consent on the Presidents nomination to the Supreme Court. They blatantly defied the constitutional requirement and even refused to hold a hearing on President Obama’s nominee, Merrick  Garland. The choice of Garland was an extraordinary one, as the man was not only imminently qualified, but clearly Obama had nominated a moderate in judgement, precisely what the country required if any semblance of healing was to occur.

Merrick Garland is not a member of SCOTUS, simply and only, because the Republican party deliberately chose to refuse to even give the man a hearing. Mitch McConnell actually stated that if Hillary Rodham Clinton was elected president of the United States, they would block any of her nominees. Apparently Mitch McConnell had an epiphany and saw the wisdom of reducing a politicized SCOTUS in total number so as to reduce the effects of corruption or extreme ideology on our democratic processes. He was correct, politicizing the SCOTUS is a mistake and a degenerative SCOTUS simply needs to be diminished in importance and impact until sanity in our politics re-emerges. 

Now that Trump has nominated a right wing zealot with a bias toward those of similar wealth status as himself, as a SCOTUS nominee, it is imperative that the Democrats in Congress concur  with McConnell’s conclusion that nine is far too many members for the Supreme Court to have. I am perfectly content with eight, or, actually, with seven. Or, perhaps six and then five and finally four. Yes, four is a good number. If they are divided politically, or ideology, then they can simply render ineffectual judgements.

It is the patriotic duty for every Senator to refuse to approve any more judges for a seat that it is illegitimate. Further, it is their patriotic duty to recognize the extreme politicization of this previously august body, and to reduce the membership via attrition until a maximum of four or less is attained. Call your Democratic Senators and advise them to filibuster any and all nominees. Also Call your Republican Senators and advise them of their treasonous actions in blocking Merrick Garland and advise them to follow McConnell’s advice in reducing the total number of SCOTUS judges.

As for whether it is treasonous or not, consider this argument, printed and edited, from a Quora posting, namely

Here's one of those definitions:

U.S. Constitution, Article 3, Section 3

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.
The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

Now, there was a little problem here because it wasn't specifically called out that a Congresscritter violating their legally binding Oath to protect Our Constitution is, in point of Fact, working against the Nation and could be used to adhere to the enemies of Our nation by giving them aid and comfort in protection from Our Laws. So in 1868 they added this bit to make it crystal clear the Congressional Oath of Office was, in Fact, legally binding and that any who violated it should be thrown bodily from the Capitol.

U.S. Constitution, 14th Amendment, Section 3
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

What this bit does is define Treason against the Constitution as a High Crime and mandates that any Public Official in the US who subverts, evades, or rebellion against Our Constitution be thrown from office and banned forever from service in any Public Office... whether they were elected or appointed. 

Sadly for our bribed and treasonous Congresscritters and judges there is precisely zero wiggle room here. They are specifically bound by the Constitution and actions which attempt to "change" our Constitution without the use of the Constitutionally mandated Amendment Process and all its inherent protections, are committing "insurrection or rebellion against the United States Constitution."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tired Old Excuses Return to the Elbert County BOCC

Sometimes, no matter how much you want things to change, they don't change.  You hope and hope and hope that things will change in Kiowa, but they don't. No matter what kind of lucky talismans you carry, no matter how many lucky rabbits' feet adorn your key chain or how many four leaf clovers you carry in your wallet carefully preserved in wax paper, you just can't catch a break.  You were hoping you were going to get lucky and discover that things in Kiowa were going to change but then you learned that things remain jammed, blocked and frozen.  You can uncross your fingers, Nelly. If this week's BOCC meeting was indicative of what we can expect in the future, you are going to be underwhelmed. Sigh.

Now, in fairness to the BOCC, I can only give you this information in a secondhand manner.  You see, I had other personal business conflicting with my ability to come into Kiowa and sit in on the scheduled BOCC meeting.  I was hoping that there would be a recording of the meeting, but since that accounting is left to the public to perform, we cannot always be sure that it will happen.  People have jobs,  they have appointments, they have children, et cetera, that conflict.  I can't blame anyone but myself.  It's my fault I was not able to fulfill my civic duty and attend this important meeting today.

I tried.  I called the usual suspects who are  generally found in attendance at these meetings.  That is when I learned that we are in for another four years of more-of-the-same-old thing. I have been active in Elbert County politics for nearly twenty years.  Every election cycle the Republican candidates make the same old promises during their campaigns. The speeches goes something like this:

Folks, I know you want to become more involved!  I know you have day jobs and can't participate in regular day meetings of the BOCC.  I know you want your opinion to be heard.  Well good news!  I am the one who is finally going to bring you the thing you have been clamoring now for years!  That's right, if elected I am going to make sure at least some of our BOCC meetings are scheduled in the evening.  That way, you can have someone watch the kids.  You won't have to miss work.  You are finally going to be able to express your thoughts at the podium to your elected officials!  Huzzah! Elect me!

Recently, Chris Richardson dropped the same old excuse that we hear every time a new board puts their collective elbows on the table and looks over the tops of their glasses and down their noses at you.  Chris told the people in attendance today that there are not going to be any evening BOCC meetings because the commissioners are only able to do the county business when the county is open.  He reminded us all that Elbert County rolls its sidewalks up at 6:00 PM.  Oh sure, those fluff committees full of citizens can meet at night, but not the commissioners.  Not when the county is closed.

I called a half a dozen counties today to ask if they ever hold evening meetings.  Adams County does, but heck, they have so many more people than we do.  Ouray County does.  Larimer County does.  Mesa County does.  Arapahoe County does not... but they actually hold county town hall meetings on a teleconference line during evening hours.  Funny thing, they do not restrict the callers on choosing topics.  

Elbert County does not hold evening meetings with the BOCC.  They even restrict what you can or cannot discuss during the period set aside for community comments.  Taxpayers just do not matter unless it is during campaign season.

In addition to to this same old set of tired excuses, I just learned that all of the the appointments to the planning commission had been made.  Every new position was filled by a Republican. I learned that every placement on the Citizen's Advisory Committee (CAC) had been made.  Every new position was filled with a Republican.   The message was ham handed yet clear as crystal:  In Elbert County our government is not interested in representing  the ideas or opinions of Independents  or Democrats.  If you cannot pass the purity test, do not bother applying to fulfill your civic ain't gonna happen.  As has been the case out here for ages, new ideas are too scary for consideration.  

Let's just be honest with ourselves.  If you are not in 100% agreement with the folks in control over at the Elbert County Republicans, even if you are a card carrying member of the GOP, your ideas are unwanted, bothersome and annoying.  We just got  more-of-the-same-old thing on steroids.  This is all playing out at a time when developers who have an eye on our water resources and are ramping up for a push the likes of which we have never seen.  Everybody was hoping that there would be some moderation by Commissioners Wilcox and Thayer, but alas, recent moves indicate that they are just a politer version of so many of their predecessors who made promises to change and then picked up at the exact same spot where the last team left off. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Inevitability of Change in Elbert County

Guest Author - Tony Corrado

2017 is becoming the year of change throughout the world, and, it is coming to Elbert County also. We now have two major housing developments in the planning stage, both of which will be moving to the execution stage in the near future. These changes will bring substantial, and lasting, change to our county in that the traffic, business and rural nature of the north western corner will be forever altered. There is one report that predicts Elbert County will undergo the largest rate of growth, over the next decade, of all counties in the front range.

Many are committed to resisting this change and want to protest the planning and execution of the necessary BOCC actions required to enable these changes to take place. While I understand the intentions and the enthusiasm of those folks who resent this change, it is inevitable. Not only is it inevitable, it is the right of those developers to reap the benefits of their investments. It is also the right of Elbert County tax payers to insist that the process be fair to all parties, that it be above corruption and most of all, that the water, which is essential to our way of life be preserved.

Water, like minerals, is a right the owners have for exploitation as well as surface land development. If done properly, the BOCC can minimize the impact of these developments and do the least harm to future Elbert County dwellers. It is necessary to understand the value of water rights in order to understand how simple it is for the BOCC to minimize the affected water supplies in question.

First, it is necessary to understand that developers make money building homes and selling them to any and every buyer they can. The BOCC, with the advice of the planning commission and the CDS staff, can act to ensure that the physical developments are well planned with sewage treatment plants, improved roads, open spaces etc. etc. What each developer will also seek, however,  is a resolution by the BOCC establishing a water district for each development. Water districts are very powerful instruments in that, once approved by the BOCC, they are then independent of oversight and control from both the county and the state. In essence, if they don’t screw up and violate the rules by which they were established, they are forever in charge of their destinies. Most of them, if not all, will ask the BOCC for the right of imminent domain (the right to seize your property), the right to buy and sell water, and the right to raise monies for their project through the issuance of public bonds. They,likely, will also request authority to construct a pipeline from, likely Douglas and Arapahoe Counties in order to “ensure an adequate supply of renewable water for the future”.

They will, likely, already have purchased the rights to water from the aquifers beneath the county. It will, likely, be a right to access water in multiple aquifers. They will assign a certain number of acre-feet of water to the homes they are building. This assignment will be the minimalist amount of water designated by the State of Colorado. But they will retain ownership of far more water than they designate for the development itself. Why would they do all this?

A pipeline that carries water into Elbert County can be used to carry water from Elbert County as well. The water will never know which direction it is heading. (trust me)
If the aquifer the developer has assigned water from, for his development, ever goes dry, the homeowners will have no choice but to rely on the water district to supply them water. If you believe the aquifer(s) will never go dry, just check the dropping water levels caused by Douglas County development. The developer, having plenty of water they still own, can then allow the water district to purchase the water from the owners of the water rights and sell it to the homeowners. Now that the surface land profit is exhausted, because the development is complete, the owners of the water can now grant themselves an annuity for life because the price of water will now be exorbitant. Look to the Wild Pointe subdivision to see the costs of maintaining a modicum of living style by purchasing controlled sources of water.
By the way, if you think water is not already a global and USA  issue, I suggest you  read the article posted here:
In addition to the water supply for the homes they built, the water rights owners can now use that “necessary pipeline” that the BOCC approved, to transport their water to customers in areas of Colorado where the aquifer water can command a higher price.

If this sounds like another Trump administration play, it is. But unlike that fiasco, you, the taxpayers of Elbert County can prevent this from happening. I bet the word you are thinking of right now is “how”?

Imagine if the BOCC, in approving a resolution for these developers and their water districts, simply requires them to not transport water out of the county. Pipelines can bring it in, but pipelines cannot transport it out. They require them to sell water they own, restricted  for use within the borders of the county. Further, they insert a clause that all changes to the water supply contracts, enabling a cost increase, must be approved by the BOCC whenever a price increase is sought.

Sources of renewable water, brought into the county through pipelines are fine and may prove to be necessary for our sustained growth. Aquifer water leaving the county is not acceptable. To those who will suggest that water rights are inalienable rights that cannot be infringed, you are wrong. You may own the water rights and you may sell them or the water they represent. You can fill tanker trucks and have the water transported out of the county. However, the county does not have to enable you to sell it by sanctioning its sale and by enabling it to be pumped out through pipelines they approve.

The indivisible movement has awakened a sleeping giant unlike any this country has ever seen. All it takes is to focus a small of that energy on the three commissioners of the BOCC.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Where the Rubber Meets the Road