I am a Veteran

Sunday, November 11, 2018

I am a veteran, a veteran's wife, a veteran's mother, a veteran's daughter, a veteran's granddaughter.

I've been in harm's way, and watched while those I loved were in harm's way.

I've served on land, and on sea, in the United States, and abroad.

I've worked to keep the sea lanes open around the world, and instructed the next generation of warrior sailors.

I've slept on the ground, in Navy ships, in barracks, and on cots.

I've seen regard for the military ebb and flow, depending on the politics of the moment. I've seen my brothers and sisters in arms used for political capital at the hands of the dishonorable, and I've seen the Armed Forces receive the highest level of respect from the population we protect.  
And never, for one minute, have I regretted my service. It was my privilege to come of age in the warrior culture, and to serve alongside my brothers and sisters in arms. 

So today I salute my fellow veterans, my fellow sailors, my fellow warriors. Thank you for your service, and for serving with me.

Today

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Today, we exercise our franchise by partaking in our Republic's democratic process.

Today, we perform our duty as citizens of our country, regardless of our political preferences or positions.

Today, we honor those who have fought for this freedom, by doing our research, and voting responsibly and in accordance with our values. 

Today, we help determine the course of our country, for good or for ill. 

Today, we determine the fate of many of our fellow Americans, and those who do not yet have the privilege of helping to choose our nation's path.
 
Today, we make a statement about our character, and the character of our nation, which is a reflection of the women and men we choose to lead us.
 
Today, we take responsibility for our country and our leaders, because our leadership is a reflection of us, and what we believe. 

Today, we vote. Let us do so wisely.

Colorado Amendment 73 - We don't need no education

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Colorado Amendment 73 is entitled "Funding for Public Schools." This Amendment would enact a change to the Colorado Constitution, and so requires a "yes" vote of 55% to pass. According to the Secretary of State's office, it was placed on the ballot by citizen petition.

The gist of this Amendment is desire to increase funding for public schools by raising the individual income tax rate for filers who make more than $150,000 a year, increasing the corporate income tax rate, and increasing property tax on residential properties.

The following groups are in favor of this Amendment:
The following groups are opposed to this Amendment:
Based on my research, it appears that this Amendment is split along party lines (shocking, I know). The Think of the Children liberals want this to pass. The no-tax, voucher-loving conservatives do not.

This makes perfect sense to me. Teachers, people who live in areas where schools are underfunded, and bleeding heart liberals who think public education is the heart of American democracy want this to pass so there's more money funneling into public education state-wide. Their arguments boil down to the contention that people with more money should bear the brunt of fixing the situation.

Libertarians, "no new taxes" adherents, and school voucher supporters want this to fail so their taxes don't go up and so they can make a case for using public monies to pay for their kids' private educations. Their arguments boil down to taxes = bad, and the infamous "do more with less" trope.

So this is the quintessential conflict in values between the haves and the have-nots.

Here are some things to consider when making your decision on this issue:
  • Over half of Colorado School Districts are operating on a four day week because they can't afford a five day week. 
  • In the last eight years education funding has been cut by $7.2 billion. 
  • An increase in business, property, and income taxes may have a negative impact on Colorado's economy. 
  • The state legislature will not have the power to redirect money earmarked for education to other uses. 
So this is primarily a question of the redistribution of wealth to fund public education.

Colorado Propositions 109 and 110: I'm giving you the side-eye

Monday, October 22, 2018

Colorado Propositions 109 and 110 are entitled "Authorize Bonds for Highway Projects," and "Authorize Sales Tax and Bonds for Transportation Projects," respectively.

These are Amendments to the Colorado Constitution, and according to the Secretary of State's office, both Propositions were placed on the Ballot by citizen petition.

The gist of both Amendments is to address how to pay for highway and transportation needs in Colorado.

The following groups are in favor of Amendment 109:
  •  Fix Our Damn Roads (Their link keeps timing out, but TRACER reports their contributions are coming from Libertarian organizations)
  •  No On 110. Yes on 109 (I can't find a link to this organization, and TRACER reports they're delinquent in filing their required donation and expenditure report.)
The following groups are opposed to Amendment 109:
  • State Ballot Issue Committee (This appears to be a small anti-tax organization out of Colorado Springs. TRACER reports they're against everything but Amendment A and Amendment 74)
  • Coloradans For Coloradans (I can't find a link to this organization, but in the past, it appears the majority of their contributions have come from sources outside of Colorado. Additionally, TRACER reports contributors are companies and associations associated with the building industry.)
  • Win the Fourth Colorado Issue Committee
  • Coloradans for a Responsible Future (I can't find a link to this organization, but according to TRACER, their contributors are companies and associations associated with the building industry.)
The following groups are in favor of Amendment 110:
  • Coloradans For Coloradans (I can't find a link to this organization, but in the past, it appears the majority of their contributions have come from sources outside of Colorado. Additionally, TRACER reports contributors are companies and associations associated with the building industry.)
  • Coloradans for a Responsible Future (I can't find a link to this organization, but according to TRACER, their contributors are companies and associations associated with the building industry.)
The following groups are opposed to Amendment 110:
  • State Ballot Issue Committee (This appears to be a small anti-tax (libertarian?) organization out of Colorado Springs. TRACER reports they're against everything but Amendment A and Amendment 74)
  • No On 110. Yes on 109 (I can't find a link to this organization, and TRACER reports they're delinquent in filing their required donation and expenditure report.)
Here's the gist:

If Amendment 109 passes, the state could borrow $3.5 billion by selling transportation revenue bonds for highway projects. These would be repaid within 20 years, using existing state revenue sources.

If Amendment 110 passes, state officials would increase Colorado’s sales and use tax from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent for 20 years in order to borrow up to $6 billion.

So the long and the short of it is:
  • If you want to fund transportation initiatives by borrowing money against bonds, vote "yes" on 109, and "no" on 110.
  • If you want to fund transportation initiatives by increasing the sales tax, vote "no" on 109, and "yes" on 110.
  • If you want a third solution, or you don't want any additional monies to be earmarked for transportation projects, vote "no" on 109, and "no" on 110.
  • If you want both solutions to be enacted, vote "yes" on 109, and "yes" on 110. 
Here are the points I considered when making my decision:
  • Proposition 109 borrows money; 110 raises taxes to obtain the money. 
  • The tax increase in Proposition 110 is a sales tax, which disproportionately affects the poor. 
  • Proposition 110 is using money for multi-modal (bicycles and mass transit) transportation, 109 is not. 
  • Proposition 109 money is designated to 66 specific highway projects, 110 is not.
Following the money was tougher on this one. I had to research each agent in Tracer and then look up the committee's contribution and expenditure reports. The fact that the committees apparently took pains to hide their involvement (except where forced into transparency by Colorado SoS rules) makes me side-eye the lot of them.
     
     

Colorado Amendments Y & Z: Looking for the other shoe

Friday, October 19, 2018

Colorado Amendments Y & Z are entitled "Congressional Redistricting" and "Legislative Redistricting," respectively. The purpose of these Amendments are basically the same, and so it most of the language, so I'm going to lump them together for the purposes of this edition of "Follow the Money."

These are Amendments to the Colorado Constitution, and according to the Secretary of State's office, both were unanimously referred to the voters by the state legislature.

The gist of both Amendments is to prevent gerrymandering in Colorado, and provide a more bipartisan process for redistricting after the census.

The following groups are in favor of the measure:
These groups have raised $4M to support the measure.

The following groups are opposed to the measure:
This group has not reported any moneys raised or spent, and (in my opinion) also seem a little fringe.

Note: "Follow the Money" values collected from the Colorado Secretary of State's TRACER system.  This system contains public disclosures for campaign finance in Colorado.

What happens today is that once the census data arrives from federal government, the state legislature attempts to put a legislative map together, drawing district lines for representation in the State House. If If they can't agree, or if someone's not satisfied, then a legal challenge is issued, and the court ends up drawing the lines. The legal challenge has occurred the last four times a census has been conducted. Both sides accuse the other of gerrymandering (and both are correct).

In the case of the Federal Congressional Districts, today an 11 member Colorado Reapportionment Commission is formed after the census. These individuals are appointed by the three branches of state government, with as many as six people from a single political party. Once they draw the maps and they hold public hearings, then send the map to the Colorado Supreme Court for approval.

The new system would involve replacing both of these processes with 2 new commissions. The Commissions would have 12 members, 4 from the state's largest political party, 4 from the state's second largest political party, and 4 people who are unaffiliated. (For your information, the "unaffiliated" are the largest group of registered voters in Colorado, including yours truly.) The appointment process is supposed to be bi-partisan, is somewhat convoluted, and relies in part on random chance.

Once the Commissions are formed, they put together new maps, hold public hearings, and then vote. The new maps must pass by a super-majority of 8 "yes" votes, with at least 2 unaffiliated commissioners voting yes. Then it goes to the Colorado Supreme Court for approval.

As near as I can tell, pretty much everyone endorses this legislation, on both sides of the aisle. The politicians want the Courts out of the redistricting business. Neither side trusts the other and sees risks in the current system, so want a more bipartisan effort.

I'm of two minds on this issue. On the one hand, I look at the legislation, and I say "Hurrah! Transparency in government!" On the other, I wonder why there's so much bipartisan support for this. Is the fix already in? What's the catch? My public servants have taught me to suspect skullduggery and shenanigans at all times, so I have trouble believing their sincerity. Imagine that.

Check this one over carefully, fellow voters. It's complicated, and requires some study to fully understand the proposed new process.

Colorado Proposition 112 - What fresh hell is this?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The most contentious legislative contest for the 2018 midterms here in Colorado is Proposition 112, entitled "Increased Setback Requirement for Oil and Natural Gas Development."

As is our custom here at Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men, let's Follow The Money.

This is a proposition, which in Colorado means it was placed on the ballot though petition. A minimum number of signatories are required in order for the Secretary of State to place it on the ballot.

Based on the Colorado Secretary of State website, the following groups are in favor of this measure:
  • Colorado Rising for Health and Safety
  • Earthworks Action Fund Issue Committee
These groups have raised approximately $882K to support the measure.

Those opposed to the measure are:
  • Protecting Colorado's Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence (Protect Colorado)
  • State Ballot Issue Committee
  • Fix Our Damn Roads
  • Spirit of Colorado
  • Americans for Prosperity - Colorado Issue Committee (AFP-CO IC)
These groups have raised over $33M to oppose the measure.

Based on my research, most of the contributions for the "opposed" side of the house come directly from the energy business. Understandable - if this measure passes, the real estate available for oil and gas extraction will diminish significantly. This translates to less money for these companies (including the Koch Brothers and their lick-spittle PAC, AFP), Noble Energy, Ralsa Energy, and more, plus the small businesses that support these large companies).

The main contributors on the "in favor" side of the house come from granola crunching hippies, and by "granola crunching hippies," I mean "people who don't think water should be flammable."  Theirs is a grass roots initiative.

Most of the politicians who have taken a position on this measure are against it. Again, understandable, since no one wants to be the guy who's on the wrong side of the energy industry when it's time for reelection.

As with most political contests, the fear mongering, exaggeration, and downright liar, liar, pants on fire rhetoric is everywhere. Those opposed claim it will have serious and long-term economic repercussions. Those in favor say these claims are grossly exaggerated, and that fracking and other extraction technologies cause serious short and long-term health problems. I'm not going to recap the research here because I have a job, so you'll need to read the claims on your own to determine the actual facts. But here are some things to consider when forming your own opinion:
I've decided how to vote in this particular case based on my own research, analysis and values. Please...do the same.

Follow the Money

Monday, October 15, 2018

Many years ago, when I was just starting my journey of lifelong learning, I took a political science course from the local college.

My professor for this course was something of a cynic, and after all these years, I've remembered one thing she told us in that class: In a representative democracy, the only way to determine the winners and losers in a political contest is to follow the money.

So over the years, my practice has become to find out who the major donors are for each candidate, each amendment, each local law. Once that research is complete, then I have to ask the question: Of these donors, whose interests most closely align with my own? Whose interests most closely align with the good of the people, and the good of the union?

The reason for the first question should be obvious - it's important to know and understand how candidates and legislature will affect your daily and long-term interests. This question is usually easily answered, because it's centered entirely on a narcissistic view of the world. Legislation that costs me money is bad. Candidates who don't care about my well-being are bad. Plus there's the whole "company you keep" truism *cough*Trump Supporters*cough*.

The second question is more difficult, and I would argue, more important. MUCH more important, because it speaks to the long-term health and well-being of our nation. It speaks to the moral necessities each individual holds dear. It speaks to our maturity, both as individuals and as a nation, that we would take the larger picture into account when making our choices.

The clearest example of this that affects me directly is health care. I've never been without healthcare. My kids have never been without health care. I've been incredibly fortunate that my employers have always offered affordable choices in this area, and I've been able to take advantage of this good fortune to the benefit of me and my family.

But not everyone is so lucky. In 2017, 29.3 million people were uninsured. The ACA brought my premiums up, and further expansion of benefits (such as Medicare for all) will likely cost me additional monies, either in the form of premiums, or taxes, or both. But I feel I have a personal responsibility to help ensure everyone in our country has access to basic medical care. Will it benefit me personally? No. Does that matter to me? No. I believe it's the right thing to do, so I do it. Others feel differently, or have valid concerns about sustainability, or object for other reasons. We all have an obligation to vote our conscience, and that's where that second question comes in.

I'm perfectly aware that many people never get past the first question. You can even make an argument that our current political shit-show is a direct result of this pattern of voting by the Baby Boomers. But I think we should all make an effort to do better in this regard.

So I'm going to follow the money on the current Colorado Amendments, and I may post some of my findings in this space. Not the "Lower Age Requirements for Members of the State Legislature from 25 to 21," because that kind of thing is really a matter of opinion based (largely) on the voter's age and experience. But the contentious stuff that is inundating my life every day through mailers, commercials, unsolicited opinions, and yard signs.

And once I've done my homework, it'll be time to vote my conscience. And I hope everyone else who is eligible to vote does the same.