January 24, 2010
The United States Supreme Court just dealt a horrible blow to clean campaign reforms in its recent decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (US S Ct 2010). Both the federal McCain-Feingold reforms as well as Colorado's popular Amendment 27 placed limits on corporate and union campaign contributions. The net effect of this decision is to allow unlimited corporate and union spending in elections.
Why is that a problem? The prior Supreme Court jurisprudence recognized a need to offset the actual and potential corrupting influence of money on elections. This is a radical departure from settled precedent that has changed:
One Person One Vote into One Dollar One Vote
The Supreme Court goes further down the corrupting fiction that corporations have the same rights as human beings and allows elections to be bought outright by those with the most money.
The idea of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people is now a government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations. By elevating corporate wealth to 1st Amendment protections under the fiction of personhood, it has the net result of eclipsing the speech and voting rights of ordinary Americans – of snuffing out the actual 1st Amendment rights contemplated by our founders.
The public is already deeply distrustful of the role of money in elections. This decision shakes whatever remaining confidence can be left and declares democracy is now open to the highest (corporate) bidder.
January 12, 2010
The State Capitol Visitor services section offers three types of tours during the legislative session:
Historical – a 45-minute look at the building, its history, etc (led by our volunteers! and sometimes by staff)
Legislative – a 45-minute look at the process (led by the visitors' aides of the House of Representatives and Senate)
Dome climb – a 45-minute visit to Mr. Brown's Attic and the 99-step climb to the inside observation deck. (Theresa Holst, available at 303-866-3834, is the supervisor of our dome tours.)
They have been taking reservations for the 2009-2010 traditional school year since August 1st. Due to the furlough days during session and the closure of the Colorado History Museum the tours are filling even faster than normal. The least popular month is March because of CSAP testing. The busiest weeks are the last week of April and the first week in May. Three classes from the same school on the same day are already getting very difficult to schedule.
The volunteer staff can schedule all three types of tours at the same time If a dome only tour is needed, it is best to call Theresa at 303.866.3834.
If you know of a school who is planning to come to the capitol but has not yet made ita capitol tour reservations, call our tour desk at 303.866.2604 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays with the following information:
name of school or group;
leader of school group or organization;
address of school or organization;
cell phone of leader of group;
number of students (maximum is 27);
number of chaperones (maximum is 3 – 1 teacher and 2 adults);
earliest arrival time at the capitol;
departure time from the capitol;
best time to call the group leader if a confl
Please let us know if we can be of any help. Edna Pelzmann can be reached at 303.866.4747; Simon Maghakyan can be reached at 303.866.4288 or email@example.com.
Looking forward to seeing you on January 13, 2010!
November 27, 2009
You can’t blame them, really. I mean the promise of having the public and the taxpayers assume all of the risk while they retain all of the private profit. What’s not to like?
Historically, developers sought financing for building projects like everyone else — by saving, putting money down and qualifying for financing through investors, banks or financial institutions. That is so passe.
Today’s developer (at least Lend Lease) not only wants, but expects — in fact demands — either special district funding (through your property taxes), TIF funding (your taxes), and / or public tax dollar incentives.
The Denver Post ran an excellent article today, written by Carlos Illescas, Developer Seeks $90 Million in Tax Breaks for Huge Aurora Project. http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_13875492.
The scheme goes something like this:
- they demand “incentive money” from our school district; along with
- tax-increment financing for their project from the city;
- “blight” the area by E-470 & I-70;
- the school district willingly pays the money; because
- the state has to “back-fill” it.
NEWSFLASH! The state is BROKE. We will already be making billions of cuts into essential services to the people of Colorado. This is an irresponsible expenditure of taxpayer money and is a coercive financing model.
The development would include 3,800 homes and 1.3 million square feet of retail and in case anyone hasn’t notice Aurora’s commercial vacancy rate is approximately 13% and we have a plethora of vacant, unsold and vacant homes already in Aurora. Adding a school and library building into the mix hardly turns this into a public project. The benevolent distraction of a building a school dissolves when one realizes that we will be paying it back anyway. And a building doesn’t teach kids. A building without teachers or books is just a building. And if the state is forced to backfill millions to private developers we will have less money for teachers, K12, higher ed, senior services, law enforcement, driver’s license offices, etc.
This concept is not just offensive but would have devastating consequences to the entire State of Colorado. Then ask what if every developer and school district did this?
The State General Fund is only $7.68 Billion which per capita is one of the lowest in the nation. Now imagine you are the one who will need to find $3 billion in cuts in an already brutalized funding scheme and ask yourself — of all of the different needs competing for our limited dollars, where does back-filling millions of dollars in funding for one private Australian Developer fit in?
Nowhere, I hope.
November 16, 2009
It has been fashionable of late to see campaigns and people that run on an "anti-government" platform and then seek to be a part of "the government" they so disdain. But who is "the government" anyway? It is not an "it" or a "they".
It is YOU.
The Founders of this nation took great pains to create this government. We fought a Revolution, a Civil War, and to this day ask our men and women in uniform to risk their lives defending this historic and unique form of government.
In the famous Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln said, "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
In our Declaration of Independence it states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
When you live in a police state, in a dictatorship, or in a monarchy then "the Government" is decidedly not of the people and is most predictably their greatest oppressor.
But in a democratic republic, the government IS the people. And if we say we don't like government what are we saying? We don't like or trust ourselves?
YOU choose your candidates, YOU can run for office, YOU can vote, YOU have the right to contact each and every one of your elected officials and tell them how you would like them to vote and why. No one will get their way every time, but this surely beats the alternatives.
I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried."
Perhaps we are asking the wrong question.
There is plenty to criticize and much room to improve in every level of our government but perhaps what we really mean is that there are different policies we would like our government to enact or follow. Then let's just say so and work to make those changes. Let's talk about what what our priorities should be, good laws, bad laws, and what kind of society we want to be.
But attacking "the government" that our founders created as some kind of evil abstraction is merely an exercise in nihilism, which promotes a disaffected public, and when the public disengages, we are no longer a government of the people, by the people, for the people. In fact at that juncture, all that is left is special interest groups who are paid to influence the system, which can give us plenty to be disaffected about.
In other words, when people don't participate the whole premise of our American system fails. When people participate and take ownership of their government then we are living the promise of the American Dream — a process of becoming a "more perfect union."
As contemplated in the preamble to our U.S. Constitution, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
September 29, 2009
CollegeInvest is an "enterprise" within the Colorado Department of Education that was created to increase access to higher education by (1) issuing bonds (to go for originating / purchasing student loans); (2) administer state's "529″ college savings plans; and (3) administer various scholarship and loan forgiveness programs.
Yesterday in audit committee we heard the results of the recent audit and there are finding we should all be concerned about:
- The Early Achievers Scholarship Trust Fund should have been disbursing 5% of fund's value in scholarships or $3.8 million in scholarships. The fund actually disbursed only $91,000 to 76 students, or 0.1%.
- CollegeInvest has spent almost $10 in administrative costs for every $1 that has been disbursed in scholarships.
- The Trust fund investments averaged -4.8% annually which was below its peers at -1.3%.
- The Service and Opportunity Scholarship failed to give out 330 out of 565 Service Scholarships and Opportunity Scholarships (58% of available scholarships NOT given out).
- CollegeInvest failed to give out $860,000 of $1.8 million available in scholarship funds under the Service/Opportunity Scholarship.
- The loan forgiveness program for nursing teachers has only served 11 participants since 2007 and CollegeInvest is requiring that it be one of their loans to participate.
- Administrative expenses are high and the program has 37 FTE. The proportion of FTE to students served is pretty seriously out of whack.
- Review of 40 sample administrative expenses revealed 7 that were questionable (18%) either due to donations which are prohibited in the state constitution, due to meals not documented with an official function, payment for family members, insufficient document, prohibited spending for contract lobbyist, or lack of cost allocation and conflict of interest.
- The Auditor found inadequate documentation for approvals or authorizations for 53% of the expenses reviewed.
- The Board of CollegeInvest approved a $10,000 "sponsorship" or donation of funds to a non-profit who is headed by a member of the CollegeInvest Board.
- The Board also chose to invest 60% of its portfolio into itself in the form of student loans. This is not typical for other state portfolios.
Folks the funding for these programs comes in no small part from the profit they are making on student loans. Failure to provide the required scholarships means not only are students paying for it in the terms of their student loans, but they are paying for it again in the form of lost scholarship opportunities.
To read the full audit and the recommendations go to:
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