IMMIGRATION REFORM?

Against the protestations of most Americans, all Democrats, and even many Republicans, Present Trump (as announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions) is today ending the popular Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — which allowed young people who had been brought into this country illegally as children to be spared from deportation.

The Trump Administration will no longer be accepting any new applications for deferred action, yet will for the next six months continue renewing the applications of those young people who already have deferred action — meaning those young people (some 800,000) who are already protected by DACA will continue being protected for the next six months, but no new applicants will be allowed to be protected.

The Trump Administration hopes Congress will use this six-month period to take Congressional, legislative action to protect immigrant children.

Read President Trump’s written statement, here.  And White House supplemental statement, here.

In the most generous possible view, this could be considered as a push by the Trump Administration for immigration reform — a catalyst for changing an immigration system which liberals label as broken because it inhumanely separates families from each other and isn’t responsive enough to a changing world, and conservatives consider broken because the borders are too open, undocumented immigrants are punished too lightly, and the whole system is to porous, which creates the possibility for exploitation by terrorists or other dangerous criminals.

But even if beginning a discussion about broader immigration reform were the general motivation behind this specific action of Trump Administration (and I seriously doubt it was), then this is the wrong and worst way to do it, because punishing young people who were illegally brought into America as immigrant children is unnecessarily cruel.

And it doesn’t even make any sense, because DACA fixes a problem for immigrant children by allowing them to petition for full citizenship without the fear of being deported while the process moves along.  Yet Trump has suddenly ended that program and called on Congress to come up in six months with their own solution (like the one he just ended) to the problem that was already solved.  Trump just pulled his finger out of the hole in the dam and told Congress to plug the hole — which had already been plugged!

And he’s doing this in the worst possible way: by giving Congress six months to solve the problem he just created, which gives all the power to Congress, not the President (which is a sign of weakness).  Trump has just pointed to Congress and said, “You fix it.”

And he’s even doing this at the worst possible time, putting Congress on the clock to solve this problem now, when they also have less than a month to try a last time at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), and they have to pass a budget to fund and keep open the government, and they have to start taking up their next big issue, tax reform.  Trump has unnecessarily added another big item onto a plate already full and overflowing with other items.

But even so, Congress has already taken action on this issue, we know — for back in 2013 the Senate passed S.744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” which included a section (2103) preserving DACA and protecting those immigrant children covered by the “Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors Act” (DREAM Act) of earlier 2013.

S.744 also created a long path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, by allowing them to apply to a new program for permanent resident status as a Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI), which they had to be for 10 years before they could then apply for full citizenship (Sec. 2102).  Children protected by DACA and the DREAM Act only had to be RPIs for 5 years before they could apply for full citizenship (Sec. 2103).

But even though this good bill passed in the Senate with wide bipartisan support (68-32), the Republican-controlled House of Representatives never picked up S.744 for discussion or debate, and it’s never been moved forward at all, since 2013.

If the Trump Administration is trying to start a conversation about immigration reform, then President Trump himself (not just the Attorney General) and every other member of his Administration should be telling the House of Representatives to take up this bill, S.744, and pass it.

And if Speaker Ryan is serious about his claim that the House of Representatives will take up immigration reform, then he should start by taking up S.744, and passing it — which will re-establish DACA protections for immigrant children and will help strengthen and modernize many other parts of our whole immigration system.

This is now the best possible time for the House of Representatives to finally discuss and debate S.744, and pass the damn bill.  Because ending this particular DACA program — which protects children from being removed from the only country they’ve ever known and grown up in — is dumb, and heartless, and wrong.

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ENERGY AND EDUCATION.

Donald Trump’s nomination of former Texas Governor Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy — the same Department the Governor famously forgot to name in his list of three government agencies he would abolish if he were President — has me thinking a lot about history. 

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The economic boom, known as The Great Prosperity, which grew in America for more than 30 years following World War II, allowing millions of Americans to earn better wages for their work and afford a better standard of living year after year, let more Americans own cars, and second cars, and travel more with their families than they’d ever done before — which grew our demand for oil considerably.

Now we produced most of our own oil during that time, from wells in Texas and Oklahoma and other places, but our demand began to out pace our own supply, and we had to import the rest from overseas, from the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC) in the Middle East.  But these same countries weren’t exactly our allies at the time, or even now, and they didn’t like our overly aggressive foreign policy in those late 1960s, early 1970s years, so they used their strategic advantage over us — our dependence upon their oil — to cut off supply and cripple our economy.

Throughout the early- and mid-1970s this disastrous energy crisis led to oil shortages and long lines at gas stations, and dramatically high gas and oil prices, and other very serious problems.  Our prosperity and dependence upon oil was being used as a weapon against us.

So in 1976 Jimmy Carter promised a new energy plan, one which would save us from these problems; and he won the Presidency, and in 1977 convinced Congress to create a new Cabinet-level Executive agency, the Department of Energy — to coordinate disparate efforts of creating our own energy and help alleviate some of the problems our dependence upon foreign oil exposed us to.

Thus was created the Department of Energy.

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Similarly, uncoordinated efforts among disparate school districts, with different standards of quality and levels of funding, produced wildly different and unequal levels of education among America’s students — with poor schools in poor areas being disastrously underfunded and inadequate, but with no one to turn to for help.

So President Carter pushed also for the creation of another new Cabinet-level Executive agency, a Department of Education — “to give much better service, to provide a consistent policy, and to eliminate many of the legal disputes which had long plagued the system — all these benefits combined with lower administrative costs and fewer employees” (Carter, Keeping Faith, pg. 76).  

The Department of Education was created in October 1979.

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These new federal agencies, though, didn’t sit well with the former Governor of California who was then running for President, Ronald Reagan.  He saw their creation and mission as a vast overreach by the federal government into matters of local politics, and he advocated for the destruction of both these two new agencies.

Energy was not really a big part of Reagan’s campaign, however, so it was never seriously focused on; but education was, and he got the Republican Party to officially adopt his position into their 1980 platform: “the Republican Party supports the deregulation by the federal government of public education, and encourages the elimination of the federal Department of Education.”  The platform does mention the Department of Energy, but does not suggest eliminating it.

After defeating Carter and winning the Presidency, Reagan appointed Ted Bell to serve as Secretary of the Department of Education, and Jim Edwards to serve as Secretary of the Department of Energy, with mandates to destroy the two Departments; and in his first State of the Union address mentioned, “The budget plan I submit to you on February 8th will realize major savings by dismantling the Departments of Energy and Education and by eliminating ineffective subsidies to businesses” (January 26, 1982).

Some minor effort was made to dismantle the Department of Energy, at the end of 1981, start of 1982, but it never went anywhere in Congress, and no one pushed for it.  But Ted Bell, being an actual educator, worked hard against the Reagan Administration to keep alive the Department of Education.  (He describes this battle vividly in his 1988 book, The Thirteenth Man.)  

Bell used the power of his Department to commission an independent report about the state of American schools, and this short report — called “A Nation At Risk” — described the many challenges schools faced and students suffered under, and the dire need for federal support and guidance.

Reagan read the report and was shocked by it — as was most of America — and softened his tone about the Department of Education.  The 1984 Republican Party Platform does not mention abolishing either the Departments of Energy or Education.

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Over the next 30 years, too, Republicans talked only infrequently about these two Departments — although moderate Republican Haley Barbour does mention abolishing both in his 1996 book, Agenda for America — and others they would eliminate, like the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency — created by President Nixon), but no serious action was ever taken against them.

Even President Bush, no moderate Republican he, made no efforts to dismantle or defund the Departments of Energy or Education — and he even created a new Cabinet-level Executive agency, the Department of Homeland Security.

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But now Donald Trump is in charge, and he’s wildly, dangerously unpredictable.

He has written about abolishing the Department of Education, in his book Crippled America: “Now the federal Department of Education has been dictating educational policy for too long, and that needs to stop.  …  A lot of people believe the Department of Education should just be eliminated.  Get rid of it.  If we don’t eliminate it completely, we certainly need to cut it’s power and reach.  …  I am totally against these programs and the Department of Education” (pgs. 50 – 51).

Trump wants Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education, and I don’t know where she stands on the issue of abolishing the  Department.  Will Trump want her to destroy it, or will he not?  He’s wildly inconsistent on every issue, changing positions all the time, so who knows.  And will Betsy DeVos do it, or will she be another Ted Bell and argue against the administration?  I hope for the latter, but I don’t know anything about Betsy DeVos or what she’ll do.

Trump has not mentioned the Department of Energy in any of his political books (and I looked), so I don’t know where he stands on abolishing it.  But he wants Rick Perry to lead the Department, and Rick Perry wants to shut down the Department — so who knows what’ll happen there.

History only gives us so many answers.  The rest we have to figure out for ourselves.  And I just don’t know what Donald Trump is going to do with the two Departments of Energy and Education, and the not knowing is painful.  

What do you think?

BALANCE OF POWER

It pleases me to see our courts will do what our Congress won’t: support gun-safety legislation.

After the tragic mass-shooting attack of a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012, the Colorado General Assembly worked to pass several new gun-safety laws: requiring buyers to pass a criminal background check before buying a gun anywhere (including online and at gun shows), and limiting the number of rounds ammunition magazines can hold.

Not surprisingly, the constitutionality of those laws was challenged, even before they were enacted or enforced.  A court heard the case in a nine-day trial, and then ruled: Colorado’s new gun-safety laws “are compliant with the provisions of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution” (Colorado Outfitters Association, et al. v. Hickenlooper, et al., pg. 50).  A win for gun-safety advocates.

Not surprisingly, that ruling was challenged; but even then, the higher Court of Appeals (10th Circuit) recently ruled the case should never have gone to trial because the plaintiffs had no standing to challenge the laws in the first place.  Another win for gun-safety advocates.

Certainly that ruling, too, will be challenged in court – up to the Supreme Court.

Which makes what the Supreme Court has done recently all the more important.

After the tragic mass-shooting attack of young children and teachers at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, the state legislatures of Connecticut and New York each passed new gun-safety laws: limiting the amount of rounds ammunition magazines can hold, and banning most different models of semi-automatic assault rifles.

Not surprisingly, the constitutionality of those laws was challenged in Court.  In New York, the case (New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc., et al. v. Cuomo, et al.) was heard, and ruled: the new gun-safety laws do not violate the Second Amendment.  In Connecticut, the case (Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League, et al. v. Malloy, et al.) was heard, and ruled: the new gun-safety laws do not violate the Second Amendment.  Two big wins for gun-safety advocates.

Not surprisingly, those two rulings were challenged; but even the higher Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit), which bundled the two cases together for one decision, ruled: “We hold that the core provisions of the New York and Connecticut laws prohibiting possession of semiautomatic assault weapons and large‐capacity magazines do not violate the Second Amendment” (Shelby v. Malloy, pg. 4).  Another big win for gun-safety advocates.

Not surprisingly, that ruling was challenged – up to the Supreme Court; and the Supreme Court declined to hear the challenge, letting the Appeals Court ruling stand – which is another big win for gun-safety advocates.

So, to recap, after tragic mass-shooting attacks, several state legislatures worked to pass new gun-safety laws, those laws were all challenged in court, and the courts have all upheld the laws as Constitutional, not violating anyone’s Second Amendment rights.  Since the gun-safety laws passed in Colorado after the Aurora mass-shooting are substantially similar to the gun-safety laws in New York and Connecticut, which the Supreme Court just declined to challenge, then our laws too will probably go unchallenged by the high Court.  A probable win for gun-safety advocates.

And even this: California has strict restrictions on who can carry concealed weapons.  Those restrictions were challenged in court, in San Diego County and Yolo County.  In each case, the courts found the restrictions did not violate anyone’s Second Amendment rights (Peruta v. City of San Diego, Richards v. City of Yolo).  Concealed-carry is a privilege, not a right.  Big wins for gun-safety advocates.

Not surprisingly, those two rulings were challenged; and a three-judge panel ruled those decisions were wrong: the restrictions did violate the Second Amendment.  That decision was challenged, taken up by the whole Court of Appeals (a twelve-judge panel), and reversed: “there is no Second Amendment right for members of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public” (Peruta v. City of San Diego, pg. 3).  A big win for gun-safety advocates.

That decision will probably be challenged, up to the Supreme Court – but since the Court just declined to hear the challenge to the New York and Connecticut laws, it may decline to hear the challenge to this California law, too – which would be another win for gun-safety advocates.

Such a concealed-carry challenge could never happen here in Colorado, though, because our State Constitution already affirms there is no constitutional right carry a concealed weapon.  Read Article II, Sec. 13: “The right of no person to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall be called in question; but nothing herein contained shall be construed to justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons” (emphasis added).

Colorado may pass whatever concealed-carry restrictions it desires, because concealed-carry here is a privilege, not a constitutional right.  The only way that would change would be if the law were challenged by the Supreme Court, found to violate the Second Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, which is superior to our own – but that doesn’t seem likely to happen because the Court just declined to hear those other gun-safety cases.

And also again, the Supreme Court ruled (in Voisine et al. v. United States) to uphold the Constitutionality of federal laws which prohibit convicted domestic abusers from owning weapons, and even expanded the group of people prohibited from owning guns to include people convicted of reckless use of force. The Court’s logic: dangerous people should not own deadly weapons. Another win for gun-safety advocates.

So even though Congress won’t do anything – won’t pass any new gun-safety laws, even such widely popular ones as requiring background checks before all gun sales – the States have been active to fix these issues, and the Courts have been wise enough to uphold the Constitutionality of these gun-safety laws.

Checks and balances prevail.  Our courts will do what our Congress won’t: support gun-safety laws.

WHO IS CALANDRA VARGAS?

Like most people in Colorado Springs, I am no fan of our current Congressman, Doug Lamborn.

He does not represent us.  Based on his voting record, Doug Lamborn has been consistently ranked as the most conservative member of Congress.  But when only 40% of the people in his district are registered Republicans, and many of them are not radical conservatives like himself, then Doug Lamborn does not represent the large majority (60%+) of people in his own district.  He does not represent us!

Also, Doug Lamborn supported and approved of the October 2013 government shut down, which — as was widely reported at the time — hurt Colorado Springs the worst, of all cities in America.  He actively worked to hurt his own constituents.

When Congress finally did reopen, through an authorization bill which included desperately needed funds for those large areas of Colorado (including El Paso County and Colorado Springs) burned by wildfires and drowned by flooding, Doug Lamborn was the only member of our Colorado delegation to Congress who voted AGAINST reopening the government and helping the people of Colorado.  He voted No.

And despite being a Congressman for many years now, Doug Lamborn has introduced no significant legislation into Congress to address any of our national or local issues.  When pressed about this in a recent Gazette article:

“That’s ridiculous,” Lamborn said. “Look at the national veterans’ cemetery which is being designed as we speak. It was funded yesterday in the House.”

He said the bill, which also included funding for the response to the Zika Virus, other VA funding and military construction, included $36 million for the cemetery which will be built near the Colorado Springs Airport.

“That’s a project I’ve been working on for nine-and-a-half years,” Lamborn said. “I’m proud to see that it continues to make progress.”

So, one thing.  After 10-years in Congress.  Doug wastes time by trying to defund NPR, and proposing resolutions to protect Christmas — legislation which has gotten nowhere at all, even in a Republican controlled Congress. Not even the Republicans support or approve of what little legislation Doug Lamborn does introduce.

For all these reasons, and many more, I do not like Doug Lamborn.

And even the local Republicans don’t like him much either, because in 4 of the 5 last elections he’s been challenged by other Republicans for the seat in Congress.

The latest challenger, who beat Doug Lamborn by a large margin to get her name onto the Republican Primary ballot, is a self-described “New Republican,” 32-year-old Calandra Vargas.

Who is Calandra Vargas?  Here are a few things you should know about the Republican challenger to Congress:

 

CALANDRA WANTS TO ABOLISH THE IRS. Which is a terrible idea, and here’s why:

The IRS costs only $12 billion/year to run (making it one of our smallest government agencies), yet collects about $3.1 trillion/year of tax revenue for public spending.  The IRS is thus one of our only self-funding agencies (like the Post Office) – it pays for itself.  Put another way, the IRS spends about 38 cents for every $100 it collects – which, even for fiscal conservatives, is an excellent return-on-investment.  (Source: irs.gov.)

Abolishing the IRS, then, which serves as the primary agency for tax collection and enforcement, would save the federal government only $12 billion/year, which is small, but would unemploy about 85,000 people (which is significant) and would cost our government many millions (if not billions) of dollars in lost revenue when people simply stop paying their taxes because no one is coming to collect and no one is around to make sure people actually pay what they’re supposed to pay – which would be economically disastrous.

How Calandra plans to avoid this self-created financial crisis is unclear, because she never says.  But the obvious and easy answer is this: DO NOT ABOLISH THE IRS.

Spend pennies to make dollars, or save pennies and waste dollars?  Calandra wants to save pennies and waste dollars – being “penny wise, pound foolish,” as the old saying goes.

 

CALANDRA WANTS TO ESTABLISH A FLAT-TAX SYSTEM. Her website offers no details about what her plan would look like, but in a recent Gazette article: “Vargas advocates for doing away with the IRS and going to a flat-tax system, similar to what Ted Cruz proposed when he was running for president.”

The Ted Cruz flat-tax plan is here.

Right now in America we have a progressive income tax system, which means: the more money you earn, the more taxes you pay.  People who can afford more pay more.  It’s fair.

Depending on what you earn, you fall into one of seven income tax brackets, paying anywhere from as little as 10% to as much as 39.6% an income tax.  For example, if you earn less than $9,000/year, you pay a 10% income tax (and probably less, with deductions); and if you earn more than $415,000/year, you pay a 39.6% income tax (and probably less, with special interest tax loopholes).  The average American – meaning most Americans – pays the 10% income tax rate.

That’s our progressive income tax system – which was first introduced by President Lincoln, during the Civil War, and we’ve had continuously since 1913.

A flat tax would abolish all of that, having everyone (and businesses) pay the same flat rate – which, according to the Cruz/Vargas plan, would be 10% for individual incomes, and 16% for corporate incomes.

And this plan has been investigated by tax experts, at both the liberal Tax Policy Center, which finds the Cruz plan would make America lose $8.6 trillion over 10 years, and the conservative Tax Foundation, which finds the Cruz plan would make America lose $3.6 trillion dollars over 10 years.  According to both firms, the Cruz flat-tax plan makes America lose trillions of dollars over the next decade — which is bad.

This is the economically disastrous flat-tax plan Calandra Vargas wants force America into.  The rich get richer and the poor get screwed.

 

CALANDRA WANTS TO “DEFUND ALL UNCONSTITUTIONAL AGENCIES.” Whatever that means.  What exactly is an “unconstitutional agency”?  Calandra never says.

Strictly speaking, it could mean any governmental agency not specifically and explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.  But since the Constitution only mentions our three major branches of government (Legislative, Executive, and Judicial), then every other government agency ever created could be considered “unconstitutional” – including the Departments of State, Labor, and Homeland Security, plus the Treasury and Federal Reserve.  Every government agency would be an “unconstitutional agency” by this narrow definition.

But the Constitution does say, in Article I, Section 8, Clause 18, “The Congress shall have Power To …make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”  The Constitution authorizes Congress to create additional government agencies.

So, an “unconstitutional agency” would have to be those not mentioned in the Constitution nor created by later law – which is none of them.  Every government agency was created by a law, under the “necessary and proper” clause.

By the standard she’s thus set for herself, then, of “unconstitutional agencies,” Calandra wants to defund either all of our government agencies, or none of them – which is meaningless.

Is this what she wants?  Or, more specifically, what exactly does she want?  Calandra never says.

 

CALANDRA, WHILE CLAIMING TO BE A “NEW REPUBLICAN,” WANTS TO REINTRODUCE INTO CONGRESS SEVERAL FAILED ELEMENTS FROM THE OLD REPUBLICAN “CONTRACT WITH AMERICA”: INCLUDING A BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT, AND CONGRESSIONAL TERM LIMITS.

In 1994, Republican Congressional candidates campaigned for office on a platform of proposals called the “Contract With America.”  They promised to introduce and pass 10 popular reforms within their first 100 days in office, saying, “If we break this Contract, throw us out.”

The very first item on their 10-point list was a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution with a tax limitation provision, requiring a three-fifths vote by both the House and the Senate to raise taxes.  The amendment passed the Republican-controlled House but failed in the Republican-controlled Senate – because they couldn’t even get enough of their own support for their own proposal.

The very last item on their 10-point list was actually two items: one Constitutional amendment to limit the term of Representatives to six years and Senators to twelve years; and another amendment to impose term limits on twelve years on both the House and the Senate.  The first proposal was never discussed, and the second failed to pass even in the Republican-controlled House – again, because they couldn’t even get enough of their own support for their own proposal.

Does Calandra support these old ideas, exactly as they were, or does she have some new, updated version to offer?  She never says.

And what exactly would Calandra, as a New Republican, do differently to finally get these failed Old Republican ideas passed?  Again, she never says.

Her website and press answers are sadly absent significant details.

THE GAZETTE V. DOUG BRUCE

Have you been following the Gazette’s recent attacks against Doug Bruce?  Why not?!  They’ve been hilarious!

On Thursday, Billie Stanton Anleu published an article exposing how the “Voter booklet may be inexact,” containing intentionally inaccurate information.  She focuses her article and attention on Doug Bruce, who wrote parts of the new voter booklet, dissecting his disinformation point-by-point.  It’s awesome.  The biggest laugh is the last, when Bruce is quoted writing “Politicians lie,” and Billie follows it with “Politicians aren’t the only ones who prevaricate, however.”

Damn.  Shots fired!

Then on Friday she published a second article, TABOR author thought ahead, where she again goes after Doug Bruce’s deceptions in the voter booklet.  After pointing out how the TABOR law, which Doug Bruce wrote, does not require voter booklets contain factually accurate information, Billie then smacks down another flaw in Doug’s writing, and it’s worth quoting here:

He [Doug Buce] also opposes Ballot Issue 2D, which would let the city keep $2.1 million that exceeded TABOR revenue limits.  The money would be spent to repair trails.  If the city doesn’t get to keep the money, each household will receive a refund of about $11.

“Liberals demanding this boondoggle sneer at your right to a $12+ refund,” Bruce writes.  “Why?  They spend that on their caramel lattes every morning.”

The biggest caramel latte at Starbucks costs about $5, including tax.  Even with two extra shots each of espresso and caramel syrup, it would cost $6.73.

But again, accuracy isn’t required in the ballot booklet because of TABOR.

Ouch.  Gloves off!

Also today, the Gazette doubled-down on Billie’s Bruce-bashing, by publishing an entire editorial on this voter booklet issue, “Springs voter guide should not mislead,” with several stabs in it against Doug Bruce, calling his booklet text “an irrelevant rant,” “not burdened by the facts,” and the editorial even goes out of its way to clarify how the ballot proposal “is exactly the opposite of what Bruce describes.”  The editorial ends with a call to action, saying “A nefariously misleading voter guide is worse than no guide. The city council and the mayor should quickly propose a charter change that establishes a thoughtful process for vetting blue book entries.”

Subtext: Stop Doug’s nonsense!

For those of you who don’t know, the Gazette is our local daily newspaper, often criticized for being too politically conservative even in its news coverage, and Doug Bruce is, as Billie’s first article says, “an anti-tax activist” and “former county commissioner and legislator who served jail time for felony convictions.” He’s a kind of a fallen hero among local conservatives, so his being attacked by the Gazette like this seems to break President Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow conservative.”

But I applaud it, because idiocy must be defeated.

STANDING-UP AGAINST SIT-LIE

(Statement to be read at the next public hearing about the proposed sit-lie law.)

City Council members, fellow citizens, ladies and gentlemen:

I rise today–as many others do–strongly opposed to this proposed ordinance.

There is a problem in our city, which demands a solution; but this ordinance comes from that problem, and does not at all address it.  The problem is apathy.  Our apathy.

Poor people, without jobs or homes or anywhere to go, stand on our street corners and beg us for help, then sit down when they’re tired, and we ignore them, and we push them away, and we punish them for coming back, and that’s the problem.

This proposed ordinance pretends to address loitering, and pan-handling, and vandalism, and some supposed congestion on public walkways, which presumably blocks access to local businesses.  But this pretended premise is false.  For the real purpose of the proposed ordinance is revealed in what its real consequences will be: punishing poor people for being poor.

And the consequences are excessively harsh, including fines of up to $2500.  For what, sitting down too long?  And tell me now, how are poor people supposed to pay these steep fines?  And what are the consequences of non-payment, or repeat “offenses”?  Jail time?  In America, we long ago abolished debtors’ prisons; but this proposed ordinance, in effect, could bring them back.

Some people may say this proposed ordinance is objectively no different from any other anti-loitering law.  I disagree.  This proposed ordinance is morally offensive.  Punishing poor people for being poor is morally wrong.  This proposed ordinance is a crime against compassion.

We should be discussing today how best to help poor people escape from poverty, and what we all can do together to achieve this noble goal–not debating how best to herd people away.  Pushing poor people out of sight, out of mind is not a solution, it’s a sin.

I object strongly to this proposed ordinance, and I pray God forgives us for having even considers it.

UNREPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT

In November 2012, Amendment 64—legalizing recreational marijuana use and retail sale—passed in El Paso County by just 10 votes.  This illustrates vividly why voting is important, because every vote matters.  Amendment 64 won with 54% of the vote in Colorado Springs.  But then, as I’ve described before, our local County Commissioners and City Council members decided to overrule the expressed will of the people, by not allowing pot sales within either El Paso County or Colorado Springs.

I believe the will of the people should be followed, but apparently our local governments disagree.

As I’ve written before, in 2013 and 2014 Mayor Steve Bach began advocating for the City for Champions suite of projects, which includes a new sports/events stadium built in downtown Colorado Springs.  A poll was then taken to see whether or not people actually wanted a new stadium built downtown.  The results of that poll were hidden for quite awhile—because they were unfavorable to the project.  By large margins, people did not want a stadium built downtown.  But even so, the C4C suite of projects was still pushed as one whole package, indivisible, with the stadium.  And against the expressed will of the people, stadium development has been going forward.

I then thought this bad habit of local governments ignoring the will of the people would change when we got a new Mayor and several new City Council members, in the 2014 elections.  But I was wrong.

For in August 2015, Mayor John Suthers began advocating for a new law criminalizing loitering in public areas downtown.  Steep fines and jail time would go to anyone caught sitting in a public area for too long.  At recent public hearings about this proposed law, the overwhelming sentiment of the people was against it.  But some news reports tell us the Mayor is still for it, and so are some City Council members.  So, despite massive public disapproval, the proposed law may still be passed.

In at least these three instances (and in many others, I’m sure), our local governments have acted contrary to the expressed will of the people they represent–which is not how American governments are supposed to work.

Unrepresentative government—and unresponsive, too—is a serious problem in Colorado Springs.  And it must be changed.