Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Not the Time for Apathy

The following is a "letter to the editor" from Jacob Werther.

As I walked my precinct last week collecting signatures for my candidate’s primary, I met people who did not care or have given up on government.

They call this apathy.

Municipalities are considering bankruptcy.

States are considering default.

The deficit is soaring.

Yet no one wants to vote.

They call this apathy.

Apathy is not an option. Voting is.

If you are reading this please take time to down download the attached voters registration form and print it out (first page only) and have 20 neighbors or friends or family fill it out and mail it to the correct clerk and recorder (second page.) Have that person find another 20 and so on. If you like the internets then go to here, or register online here.

Either way do it now before July 12, 2010 at 5:00 pm. These elections both primary and general are too important to ignore.

To learn more about the candidates please go here for Democrats or here for Republicans.

Now is not the time for apathy. Now is the time for exercising your liberty.

Jacob Werther
Denver, Colorado

P.S. If you receive this outside the State of Colorado please check your Secretary of State or local County Clerks’ office

Denver's Duck (Death) Pond 6-28-10

Click on Dead and Dying Ducks in the index for more.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Associate Naysayer of the Month - Jerry Wartgow

by Phil Goodstein

Jerry Wartgow cannot keep a job. Or so it seems. During past decades, whenever a part of the area’s educational system has been in chaos, he has taken charge. Among other posts, he has been the president of the Colorado Community College System, executive director of the Auraria Higher Education Center, superintendent of Denver Public Schools, and dean of the University of Denver College of Education. He has quickly moved on from each of the posts. The institutions have been in no better shape after he left them than before he took command.

Given this, Wartgow is the ideal man to oversee a most dysfunctional part of the University of Colorado (CU), its joint Denver campus and Health Sciences Center. The latter has particularly been in disarray over the past decade. Instead of emphasizing its primary purposes -delivering health care and training medical professionals - it has been part of the megalomania of Philip Anschutz. In particular, it and its related University of Colorado Hospital abandoned a central location for the new Anschutz campus at Fitzsimons. Problems there have been so glaring that they have been provided numerous exposes for the Denver Post, a paper that goes out of its way to celebrate the establishment and ignore questionable developments in the community. Amidst all this, rather than seeing that the Health Sciences Center needs special handling and leadership, the CU board of regents combined it with the Auraria-bascd University of Colorado-Denver. By having Wartgow, a non-physician, in charge, the Health Sciences Center will not have probing leadership questioning the policies that have led to its current morass. Still, given Wartgow’s past record, he will not be its leader for too long, passing on the problems to others. For being a convenient stopgap, he is an associate Naysayer of the Month.

Phil Goodstein will discuss Denver history and politics at the Colfax Tattered Cover on Tuesday, July 13, 7:30 PM

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dead Duck Lake

by Adrienne Anderson

Note there's nary a peep in this Sunday's Denver Post article about the fact that the lake water source is partially treated sewage effluent, laced with Superfund site contaminants.  This creates an ideal breeding ground for all sorts of harmful bacteria to flourish, while at the same time, chemicals in the new "Lowry Lakewater" would weaken the immune systems of healthy birds and other critters, making them more susceptible to whatever harmful organisms exist in this lake environment.

Why has the Denver Post ducked this important component to this story, and failed to inform its readers of this macabre mix and the background of this deal?

The Denver Post is one of the parties to the 1994 secret settlement deal with the City and County of Denver by which polluters paid some monies into a confidential fund - which even Denver City Council persons are not privy to - while foisting the poisons via a complex network of purple pipes from the Metro Wastewater plant in north Denver - at public expense - onto its own residents' public spaces, including City Parks' lakes and grounds.  You can read more about this confidential fund, the "Lowry Trust," in the 2nd story ("A Matter of Trust")  of Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Eileen Welsome's three part series, "Dirty Secrets," published in April and May 2001.  See attachment.  Democracy Now! reported on this in 2005.

The Denver Post prior to 1980 dumped its toxic printing inks and solvents at Lowry Landfill, and which in those years typically include highly carcinogenic and persistent PCBs, since banned by the EPA.

The City and County of Denver, with this clear conflict of interest as one of the parties to this unprecedented agreement, cannot talk about this with any credibility.

By the way, citizens and farm/labor/student and environmental groups protested this deal back since learning of it in 1996, and tried to stop its implementation to flush dangerous Lowry Landfill contaminated water offsite.  Despite unanimous public opposition, the deal was implemented and the flush began in 2001.  In 2004, Denver Water began "recycling" this water at ratepayers expense, again, despite public opposition.

This lake should be renamed:  "Lake Lowry" or, perhaps more fitting, "Dead Duck Lake."

Adrienne Anderson; Metro Wastewater Board member, 1996-1998 University of Colorado Environmental Studies faculty, 1993 - 2005

Naysayer of the Month - Tom Strickland

by Phil Goodstein

The two best things about Ken Salazar becoming secretary of the interior were that he was no longer United States senator from Colorado and that he took Tom Strickland to Washington with him as chief of staff of the Department of the Interior. The latter move got Strickland out of town. As much as anybody, he was the central cog linking the Democratic Party to development interests. His blatant political opportunism and ineptness in losing to Wayne Allard for the Senate was so great that it eventually led to a break between him and his partners in what had been the firm of Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, and Strickland. Salazar was once also part of Brownstein Hyatt.  Even more than Salazar, Strickland promised to clean house at the Department of the Interior, a place besmirched by another Brownstein Hyatt veteran, Gale Norton.

Reflecting the rest of the Obama administration, the team of Salazar and Strickland has done nothing to change the essence of Bush policies. In particular, rather than cracking down on dangerous offshore drilling, as part of the administration highly supported by “environmentalists,” the Salazar-Strickland Department of the Interior gave oil companies a green light to expand their operations. Then, amidst the Gulf oil spill, rather than taking charge as the department’s chief of staff, Strickland went on a rafting trip, ignoring the crisis as it grew worse daily. Since his return from that expedition, he has been virtually invisible. For so showing his inability to act when necessary, he is the Naysayer of the Month.

Phil Goodstein will discuss Denver history and politics at the Colfax Tattered Cover on Tuesday, July 13, 7:30 PM

Denver Councilwoman Johnson Not Running for Another Term

Councilwoman Marsha Johnson of District 5, just announced that she will not seek a third term. Council members have a 4-year term and are limited to 3 terms.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Party Parks to be "Activated"

Denver Parks and Recreation is going ahead with its plan to allow promoters to lease portions of various parks (conveniently renamed "Festival Parks") for fenced-off admission only activities, most of which will include the sale of alcohol. Some contend that any leasing of parks is illegal, as it is specifically prohibited in the City Charter. Note that some areas will be slated for as many as 7500 participants. Click here for many additional posts on this subject on this blog, and here (pdf) for the Parks and Rec instruction manual.

(Click to enlarge. Proposed leaseable areas in cross-hatching.)

City Park
Civic Center Park
Confluence Park
Ruby Hill Park
Sloan's Lake Park
Parkfield Park

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Candidate Bob McConnell at PCEOC Festival

Candidate Bob McConnell spoke at the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition Festival in Kim, Colorado on June 19, 2010. McConnell faces a primary against Republican State Rep. Scott Tipton in the race for the CD3 seat held by Congressman John Salazar.

Rep. Wes McKinley at PCEOC Festival

HD64 incumbent Rep. Wes McKinley spoke at the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition in Kim, Colorado on June 19, 2010. McKinley, who won 76% of the vote in the last election, is running for his 4th term.

Candidate Lisa Grace-Kellogg at PCEOC Festival

California attorney and Republican candidate for HD64, Lisa Grace-Kellogg, spoke at the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition Festival in Kim, Colorado on June 19, 2010. In her speech, she states that McKinley "has abandoned his District", and claims that the District doesn't need a "character" who "entertains".

She reportedly conducted a telephone survey of HD64 residents in which they were asked which they preferred, the cowboy or the lawyer. Wrong question.

From here:
During the most recent cycle of campaign-finance reporting spanning April 26 through May 26, McKinley neither raised nor spent a cent, while Kellogg received $570 in donations, spent $10,774 and lent $21,400 to her own campaign. To date, Kellogg's loans to her campaign total $52,100.
More than one-third of Kellogg's funds raised during the most recent cycle came from state treasurer candidate Ali Hasan, who contributed $200. Her spending primarily was on consultants, including $10,000 to Littlefield and Associates, a Virginia-based firm specializing in Republican campaigns.

Congressman John Salazar at PCEOC Festival

Congressman John Salazar of Colorado's CD3 spoke at the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition Festival on June 19, 2010.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

PCEOC Festival

Artist Wayne Pritchard with visitors (your DD crew) to his mobile Pinon Canyon art exhibit

On Saturday, June 19, we packed up for another shot at the Colorado "outback", that great southeastern Colorado semi-arid expanse, to Kim, Colorado (271 miles from Denver), where the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition (PCEOC) was having a Festival (see previous post). Speakers in the school gym and art/photography exhibits in adjacent buildings, a sit-down barbecue meal, along with 100F temperatures and wind outside, made for an exhilarating experience. Over 250 attended, and for a town with a population of 65, that's a lot.

The audience sat quietly while politicians and candidates explained why they were against the Army's position, whatever that may morph into, and for the property rights of the land owners. Even the "willing seller" caveat was found not to be acceptable. Coming up: individual speeches of note.

Robotic Warfare in Colorado?

Because of the efforts of the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition (PCEOC), ranching and farming families, Rep. Wes McKinley, and others I’ve forgotten to mention, the Army’s expansion of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site has been put on hold. Current Status of the Expansion Battle here (pdf)

One question I’ve heard repeatedly is “Why does the Army want more land when they don’t fully utilize what they’ve got”. I’ve heard theories of water rights, helium domes and mineral rights, but until now I hadn’t heard one that seemed to fit.

Robotic Warfare

The advancement of Robotic Warfare (RW) in the US military has been in progress for decades. UAV, the drones, are active every day; the future is here.

Well, the Army needs more space to practice that kind of warfare. The entire south-east corner of the State of Colorado will do just fine, thank you.

That’s what I’ve heard. It seems to fit. It's AIR SPACE the Army is after.

Duck, Duck, Goose - Continued

Photo from Adrienne's visit to Duck Lake at City Park, the "crown jewel" of Denver's park system:

From Adrienne Anderson
Yesterday morning, I went again to Duck Lake at City Park.  While there, I encountered a city worker for park maintenance, whose job now includes the task of going around the lake with a pitchfork and black plastic bags to pick up dead birds.  She said she'd picked up six dead birds already that morning, mostly cormorants. 
That this has become "normal," as city officials depict it in their public remakrs, reminds me of the frog in boiling water story.  If you boil a pot of water and put a frog in, it will immediately jump out.  But if you put a frog in water and slowly turn up the heat to a boil, it will allow itself to be cooked to death.  KUSA' report on this earlier this week said, "Denver Parks and Recreation says the birds die off at the park at about this time every year."
Adrienne Anderson

Editor's Note: Yesterday, I remembered that I have a US Senator who may be able to help in dislodging this study from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (see previous post). So I sent an email to Sen. Michael Bennet requesting that he do so. You also might consider emailing or phoning your Senator with a similar request. (email to or phone at (303) 455-7600.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Duck, Duck, Goose

Once again, ducks are dying around City Park. In August of 2009 I was still trying to obtain the results of the $20,000 Duck Death Study which was instituted in an effort to determine what was killing the ducks in and around City Park back in 2007. It had already been determined, despite many statements to the contrary, that avian botulism was not the cause. Since then, I have repeatedly requested that the results be made public. Here’s the email thread, rearranged with the oldest first.

Given that Dr. Dubovsky always publishes his email address and phone number, perhaps YOU would like to EMAIL or PHONE him with your own concerns.

02/12/2010 07:50 AM

Dr. Dubovsky:

You may recall our telephone discussion last August [2009] of the FWS Duck Death Study. At that time you said that the report was finished, but not yet released. Has it been released yet? If so, would you send me a copy or a link? If not, why?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Gerald Trumbule

Sent: Monday, February 22, 2010 9:56 PM
To: Gerald Trumbule
Subject: Re: Duck study

Mr. Trumbule,

We are working to get the document released to the public. We have submitted the paperwork to do so, and are awaiting a reply from our superiors. We hope to have everything completed and the document available in a few weeks. I will contact you personally as soon as it is available, and if we run into issues that would delay the release.

Thank you for your continued interest in this issue.

Jim D.

James A. Dubovsky
Chief, Division of Migratory Bird Management
Mountain-Prairie Region
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 25486-DFC
Denver, CO 80225-0486
phone: 303-236-4403
FAX: 303-236-8680

06/21/2010 11:12 AM

Dr. Dubovsky:

I am writing once again to request that you email me a copy of the FWS Duck Death Study. I note from our previous correspondence that back in February you thought it would be available in a few weeks. If you are not able to release it at this time, would you please explain, in detail, why you have been unable to release the study?

There has reportedly been another bout of ducks dying at Ferril Lake in City Park and I think you would agree that the public deserves to know what has been discovered in the study.

Thanks in advance for your response.

Gerald Trumbule
6/21/2010 10:18 pm

Mr. Trumbule,

We have been working on the release of the report. Unfortunately, coordination among the various participants has been less that ideal, and we have not yet received agreement from all involved regarding the release. However, we do have a press release prepared, and as soon as we get concurrence, we will make the report available on our website. I have your e-mail from February (and now your latest), and will contact immediately once I have been told the report has been posted.

My apologies for the delay.

Jim D.

James A. Dubovsky
Chief, Division of Migratory Bird Management
Mountain-Prairie Region
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 25486-DFC
Denver, CO 80225-0486
phone: 303-236-4403
FAX: 303-236-8680

Friday, June 18, 2010

Shingle Mountain in Elyria

Shingle Mountain - 50th and York

from the email stream, via Tom Anthony (with some editing for clarity).  For more on the Elyria neighborhood go here:

To: Thomas, Gregg - Environmental Health

This operation commenced some months ago in Elyria and is getting out of hand:  Dump your shingles here and save $200 taking them out to Arapahoe Landfill.  It is happening on 50th and York just south of the impound lot.

I can't imagine it's legal, but then my imagination has gotten a bit stilted lately.  Can someone check on it for us?  Thank you,
Tom Anthony, President
United Community Action Network

From: Thomas, Gregg - Environmental Health
Subject: Shingle mountain in Elyria


Per Gary Lasswell and Ben Siller in our department:

We are dealing with two cases of shingle recycling centers. Ben is working with DES/Zoning, DFD, and Councilwoman Montero's office. He ordered both of them to obtain Stormwater permits; one has done so, the other has not and Ben has been in contact with CDPHE WQCD (water quality).

The location on Columbine is trying to do the right thing and has a contract in place with Brannan to accept the shingles for recycling. The other location on York is under orders from Zoning to produce an Action
Plan as to how they propose to recycle their shingles. There are other zoning and fire code issues that the sites need to comply with such as fencing/screening, height of the pile, setbacks, and littering. Both locations have permits from Zoning; recycling is an allowed use in an I-2 zone.

Hope that helps,



I am a resident @ 47th & High Street, and was at an Elyria neighborhood meeting last night @ Pilgrim Church, where residents expressed great concern and even outrage about the shingle recycling center on York Street.
1.  When is the action plan required to be produced?
2.  When will the other "issues" be addressed?

Is there a plan to notify the neighborhood as to the resolution of these issues?  How can we ensure they are held in compliance?

Drew Dutcher
3000 Zuni Street


I believe what is most important is the fact that, without so much as one word to the neighborhood association, these "permitted uses" in the I-2 can commence and gain landmark status, with not so much as a permit.

This is just exactly how it seems to us:  we're a dumping ground where actual human beings do not belong, hence "de-fund" the recreation center and heap on the old dusty shingles and fuel tankers.

Now the City is preparing to rid us of even the cautionary protections of Blueprint Denver by overlaying heavy industrial all around our parks, greenways, open spaces, homes and proposed transit stops.

It baffles me as to what the goal could possibly be other than cause health problems, crush property values, and pave the way for the wonderful Interstate 70 realignment through Elyria.  Is some other goal here?

Tom Anthony

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

That Pesky Purple Pipe Water

Recent email activity led to the following exchange:

From CHC:
This was sent to me by a friend and fellow dog owner who works for metro wastewater:

The facts as I know them are as follows:
The water she is talking about is from a retired landfill on the east side of town that was contaminating ground water. The water was pumped out of the ground to minimize spread of the contamination. The water is pre-treated on site at the landfill, treated again at metro and then treated a third time by Denver Water to 1985 drinking water standards. The water has been certified by the Colorado Dept of Public Health and Environment as meeting all requirements.
Response by GHT:
Yes, that is what they say. And here is the list of pollutants that are approved for daily flushing from Lowry Landfill into the public sewer line. Though a large number of highly toxic compounds are being flushed at many times the state and federal health and safety standards for groundwater, through a regulatory loophole these same pollutants and radionuclides are being deemed "acceptable" once they hit the sewer.  The real question is - is their "acceptable" acceptable to you?
Further response by AA:
1) The EPA's Record of Decision for Lowry Landfill issued in 1994 said the on-site treatment plant for Lowry Landfill was not capable of treating contaminants to acceptable levels, and required the polluters to upgrade the plant.

2) In 1996, lead polluters (led by Coors) engineered a runaround to the expense of that requirement, by secretly entering into settlement agreements that required Metro Wastewater to accept the contaminated groundwater as part of its own pollution liability.

3) Metro Wastewater issued a permit, against unanimous public opposition, to discharge a wide range of toxic and nuclear compounds from Lowry Landfill via the public sewer system. The permit includes "allowable" levels of plutonium and numerous other radionuclides and scores of highly toxic chemicals to be disharged to Metro Wastewater (and Aurora's sewage plant). The permit was submitted by me as an exhibit in my federal whistleblower case against Metro Wastewater, while I was a member of their own board of directors, appointed to represent sewage workers to the position by then-Mayor Wellington Webb, from 1996-1998. I won the case, then the incoming Bush administration cleansed the U.S. Department of Labor and installed a Coors-affiliated head, under whose new administration reversed their own judge. See a copy of the relevant pages from the Metro Wastewater-issued permit at under "Lowry Landfill."

4) The permit has been violated numerous times, records I reviewed showed, including high levels of radiation beyond their own "acceptable" limits set.

5) Metro Wastewater was not designed to treat toxic and radioactive waste, and has no systems for doing so.

6) Denver Water's recycling facility has no treatment systems for removal of toxic and radioactive wastes, other than those that might settle out in their flocculation process (with residuals then to be disposed offsite). Denver Water has produced no records that they even test for the range of contaminants in the Metro Wastewater permit, according to documents produced for a Colorado Open Records Act request that I did a couple of years ago.

7) City of Denver Environmental health Department records of lake water quality for City Park's lake confirm the water has not met the state's relatively low standards for lake quality standards since the "recycled water" from Metro Wastewater began in 2004 to be used as the water source for the lake, switching from its former source, City Ditch (an offshoot of the South Platte River).

8) The water does not meet drinking water standards. By regulation, it must be labelled as non-potable water, and the purple pipes carry a printed warning "DO NOT DRINK."

Your friend seems not to have all the facts, not surprisingly. Those who worked for Metro Wastewater who tried to stop this outrageous plan from being enacted were threatened and forced out, fired without cause or on pretextual grounds. Further evidence is available in Complainants' Exhibits in Anderson v. Metro Wastewater, which of course as the Complainant, I have possession of, and they are accessible as a public record in court files of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Monday, June 14, 2010

On the Road - McKinley and Romanoff in Trinidad

Your indefatigable crew drove down to Trinidad, Colorado to tape Candidates Andrew Romanoff (US Senate) and Wes McKinley (Colorado House). On the way down, the clouds seemed to have forgotten where they belonged in the sky, and were instead lying about on the ground as large patches of fog.

First up is a brief piggy-back interview with McKinley in which he talks about the Trinidad Nursing Home situation. For more print information go here.

It was interesting following Andrew Romanoff around the Trinidad Nursing Home. He really is interested in what is going on and often poked his head into rooms to say hello to the residents. He genuinely seems to like people and wants to make contact with them. He listens intensely and sometimes takes notes. Here's a brief sample:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Jim Hightower

Thanks to Skip Weythman (SkipW - YouTube channel) for doing a great job under adverse conditions to tape the Jim Hightower talk (see previous post).

(Ed. Note - I was there to videotape but I wasn't smart enough to get under the tent.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Plugging the Leak

by Tom Anthony

By this time nearly everyone knows there's a big leak in the oil reserve we planned to use for the next 25 years' supply, and it's getting into the sea water, even the marshes. It may even hit the swimming beaches! I suppose we'll really notice it then. Meanwhile, we don't really notice why the Obama Administration originally agreed to relax restrictions on offshore oil drilling, why we thought Iraq's dictator was bad enough to warrant armed aggression from us (3rd largest oil reserves in the world) why Shell Oil will be drilling far into the Beaufort Sea this summer, and why Suncor Energy is turning half of Alberta Province in Canada upside down mining "oil sand," and why the Peak Oil reached by Pemex (Petroleos Mexicanos) in 2008 means increased migration to America.

By and large as long as something is working, more or less, we go along with it and the people who've invested in that particular business believe it's merely a matter of tweaking: tweaking the environmental rules, tweaking the profit margins, tweaking the marketing and distribution networks, tweaking the tax code. Paradigms (patterns of behavior) don't generally shift on their own until the previous structure collapses of its own weight. Then we notice something was amiss. If the BP leak results only in a decade-long dead Gulf, it'll just become another write-off in the column just to the right of the trillion dollar war.

Not that we haven't been darting around seeking "sustainable renewables" like corn, soybeans, even lodgepole pines (with a 100-year harvest rotation!) to shove into our gas tanks so we can keep planting crops of suburbanites on our farmland. The day will come when the oil companies are doing free cremations to get rendering rights on human bodies and pour that in. Meanwhile, it's doubtful even then we'll look around to notice the one thing that actually will get us within reach of "sustainable cities people love:" living closer together. After all in a nation in which a good neighbor is behind a tall fence, who really wants to see who's behind the number in Unit 208? They're probably overweight and opinionated!

In my neighborhood, Elyria, where the New Denver Zoning Code wants to permanently fractionate the three north neighborhoods with heavy industrial zoning along the Platte River Greenway, all around our parks, around our houses and around our proposed RTD North Metro commuter rail stop, the old paradigm of highways, gravel and asphalt companies, junkyards, refineries, and thundering rivers of traffic is colliding head on with the neighborhood vision of walkable, transit oriented, retail, recreation, education, and employment-oriented neighborhoods where historic cultures, resources and uses form the foundation of a welcoming future. In our six-year struggle for recognition since the I-70 East Corridor DEIS commenced, the grinding thunder of the bulldozer is overwhelming the voices of the people. And that is tragic for Earth itself.

Tom Anthony, President
Elyria Neighborhood Association

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Xcel Energy's Transformer Fire - Updated

Local citizens are reporting a dusting of fallout from the fire. Did these transformers contain PCBs? Is the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment doing any testing? I've got a call in but no answer yet.

Update: Monday, 6/8/10, 5:30 pm.
Lori Maldonado, speaking for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, assured me that Xcel, various Denver Departments, and the EPA were all on top of this and that monitoring of the air and water quality was on-going. The oil in the transformers did not contain PCBs as that old oil was swapped out years ago. However, "residuals" containing some PCBs were possible, and the test results would determine the levels, if any.

So far, all of the results were within EPA acceptable levels.

Results of "soot swath" tests would be announced tomorrow, after a scheduled 9:00 conference call among the agencies.

From the Denver Post:

Champagne said fire crews used foam to control the flames and still had some concerns about the possibility of hazardous chemicals, including cancer-causing PCBs, at the scene.

The department was trying to be sure none of the runoff from the fire entered storm drains.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Billy Whitfield plays "Ghost Riders in the Sky"

Billy Whitfield, noted guitarist and cowboy poet who often visits the Denver Capitol, plays Ghost Riders in the Sky at the Legislative picnic sponsored by Rep. Wes McKinley.

(Technical note: This is the first video I've posted that was shot using my Sony MHS-PM1, pictured here (cost $125, fits in your pocket). It's a HD (high density) flash card camera capable of hours of continuous recording, in a tiny, sleek package. It creates MP4 files in-camera that can be uploaded directly to YouTube. This one was edited first, and rendered at 1080p. On YouTube, you can select the resolution for playback, but for some reason it won't play satisfactorily on my machine at 1080p.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Two styles of beef production: Is one criminal in Colorado?

While we were in Fairplay covering the Vern Wagner “Fitness” hearing, we met Davis Waldo, an interesting gentleman who was going to testify on Vern’s behalf. He had written a document to submit to the court, which he gave us permission to publish here.

Opinions of Davis Waldo, a lessor of 35 acres to Vern Wagner for grazing and president of the Elkhorn Grazing Association

Re: temporary injunction and request for permanent injunction against Vern Wagner by Colorado Dept. of Agriculture

Education: B.S. Agriculture Science, Univ. of Illinois
M. B. A., Univ of Illinois
Profession: stockbroker, investor

Ag experience: As a young man I worked as a farm hand off and on for a total of 3 years on my step-dad’s 1500 acre farm in Illinois. His operation included a 400 head cow-calf operation and a feedlot.

Statement of opinion:

On one side of the aisle, the defendant, there is a philosophy, taught in college, and reinforced by my limited experience with farmers and ranchers, that a cow is a unit of production. The job of the rancher/farmer is to make good decisions or gambles with all of the units of production; cows, bulls, grass, purchased nutrients, machinery, labor, and capital. If he makes good gambles, then over the long haul he gets to stay in business, provide for his family, and maybe have an enterprise he can hand to another generation. If he makes poor gambles, or economic, social, and regulatory forces do not allow for a solution that produces a long-term profit, he goes out of business. In making these business decisions, he is allowed to gamble with the lives of his cows and bulls. The fate of a new-born calf is to die, probably at a time and place of the choice of his owner or manager. To be shot, strung up, cut up with saws, and distributed to consumers on plastic packages at the meat counter. If fate elects that first this animal should be allowed to reproduce, then that process is managed by the cow-calf operator.

Cows convert complex carbohydrates which are otherwise unusable by man into high quality protein. They range over large amounts of land, harvesting grasses and their offspring spend much of their lives in a feedlot eating concentrated feeds that produce large amounts of growth and weight gain. So far, society has decided they want this process to continue.

For the other side of the aisle, the plaintiff, it appears the philosophy is sin without guilt. The consumer wants his beef, but wants to eat it without any guilt that the animal suffered in the production process from placenta to tabletop. The problem is the lack of an objective standard. A few years ago I was caught in a blizzard in southeast Colorado, where in spite of the best and heroic efforts of the ranchers, losses of 80-90% of some herds took place, with total losses in excess of 50,000 head of cattle. I don't recall any ranchers being criminally prosecuted, or their livelihood taken away, their remaining cattle seized by the government and sold at auction following that event, the government permanently enjoining them from owning livestock again, as the plaintiff is asking for in this case. So a fixed standard of a maximum % death loss is apparently not workable.

So what is the standard? After listening at trial, I have no idea. Is it the % death loss experienced by one operator as compared to all comparable operators in his community? This might seem possible to compute, but no evidence of this type has been introduced. Is it totally discretionary, that a man's livelihood, the accumulation of decades of work can be seized by the government, sold at auction, and the spoils distributed in a political process totally at the discretion of government employees? Isn't that why we have due process?

So, are ranchers free to gamble with the lives of their cows or are they not? If not, who decides, and by what standard? Without clarity, the process is subject to manipulation for the benefit of those politically connected. That is my fear as an American citizen.

As to the particulars of Vern's operation, this is my view: Vern has explained to me that he uses a low density approach, around I cow/calf per 100 acres, in which grasses are "banked" during the summer to be consumed in the winter. This approach minimizes the costs of purchased hay. This has been a long, stretched out winter, with the onset of new grass delayed versus normal. Vern and his investors also gambled that retaining old cows for one more year of calf production was a good idea, and doubled down by breeding them sooner last summer to produce early calves in the hopes of higher weights by the end of the grass season. This has compounded his problems and his death losses. Last summer was a time of good rains and good grass production. Perhaps he and his investors were too optimistic that the weather would continue to distribute a good hand to play. Is he criminally negligent for making this decision in the summer of 2009? Was he too slow to purchase hay when winter dragged on? Or was it just that his gambles didn't payoff, that his herd suffered a loss, and so next year he will be more conservative in adjusting the variables of cow age, breeding time, banked grass versus cow density, and purchased hay? If he does not, then his cow herd will be subject to additional risks of reduction. Is this criminal? Is he unfit to be allowed to make these gambles in our Colorado society? By what objective standard?

As for myself and my 35 acres, I believe Vern Wagner is a fit operator and wish to be able to continue doing business with him as a lessor.

I have the same views in my capacity as president of the Elkhorn Grazing Association.

Davis Waldo


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Naysayer of the Month - Mayor Hickenlooper

Photo of Cableland, the Denver Mayor's Mansion
by Phil Goodstein

To assure that the mayor always shared his values, cable television magnate Bill Daniels donated his mansion, Cableland, to the city in 1997. He valued it as worth $7 million. Ideally, it guaranteed that rather than being a sturdy middle-class citizen who had the responsibility of maintaining his own home, the mayor would be among the financial elite, catering to the rich.

The "gift" (the German word for poison) saw the property taken off the tax rolls. No mayor has subsequently occupied it - the house is poorly designed for a family; it having been Daniels' fantasy bachelor's residence. Nonetheless, Wellington Webb and John Hickenlooper have insisted the city must have an official mayor's palace to entertain dignitaries, i.e., the interest of the city's leader is not the populace, but those who live in a world of pretense while expecting to be treated as royalty.

Now, to fund one of his many vacuous schemes, Hickenlooper has announced that Cableland is for sale, valuing it at $5.4 million. Instead of putting the proceeds of the sale into the general fund, he has announced that he is going to use this public property to fund his Denver Scholarship Foundation, a scheme to pay for college scholarships for the city's high school graduates. In other words, the mayor has arbitrarily disposed of the asset, giving the people of Denver and their representatives no say. Here it needs to be recalled that Bill Daniels always presented himself as a man most concerned with ethics. Simultaneously, Hickenlooper has advocated that the city should drain its assets by obtaining a new mayor's mansion.

Hence, in the process of taking a step forward of getting rid of Daniels' "gift," Hickenlooper is going two steps backwards of arbitrarily channeling public funds into his own "philanthropic" ventures while assuring a new albatross will hang down on the people of Denver. As such, he is the Naysayer of the Month.

Update: City Council tables the issue.

The Honorable Hick Changes the Rules

This is an example (from the south side of Sloan's Lake Park) of the Mayor's current Parks and Recreation Vendor Licensing program 

When I first moved to Denver in 1971, nothing was allowed to be sold in the parks. I mean nothing. Even The People's Fair (this week-end at Civic Center Park) was not allowed in the parks back then.

Now the Honorable Hick has sent down a decree with new rules. Selected vendors will be allowed at selected sites. Community activist Larry Ambrose (Dang! He would have been good on City Council) took some pictures of one of the first vendors at Sloans Lake. Yummy!

From the email tubes:

I understand you have all received an email and photos of a vendor in Sloans’ lake. I would like to thank Larry Ambrose for sending us the photos – as you all know, with so few rangers, much of our enforcement of park rules occurs because of complaints, so we heavily rely on our customers to be our eyes and ears and let us know when something does not look right.

The photos Larry sent are of the permitted vendor for the site in South Sloan’s lake. Of our 32 sites, some are trucks, some are smaller ice cream vendors etc. The vendor is allowed reasonable, small signage; is not supposed to set up ancillary tables and is not supposed to be parked on the sidewalk.

Our permitting staff has already called on the permit holder to review the rules, and has asked him to move to the approved location, in the parking lot. Our rangers are on notice to visit this area to ensure the rules are followed. Because these are temporary (month to month) revocable permits, we are able to place a vendor on notice and are able to pull the permit at anytime.

That site is especially popular because of the proximity to the playground, restroom, tennis courts and playing fields. I was there this weekend with my children and there were over 20 people waiting in line for most of the day to buy a drink and popcorn. We will work closely with this vendor to ensure the amenity is a success and the rules are followed.

Chantal Unfug, Senior Advisor
Denver Parks and Recreation

Update: from KDVR News

Elyria Gets Some Air

Denver Direct's Featured Contributor and community activist Tom Anthony was able to get a little air time on KGNU this morning. Tom has been active on these Elyria issues for years, and has repeatedly published on this blog. You can listen here, starting at about 37:00 minutes (you may have to wait for the entire show to download).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Citizen Squeeze

Governments at all level are putting the squeeze on their citizens by inventing new ways to charge, tax, fine, assess, ticket, and inflate the money out of them. I’ve previously referred to Denver’s ridiculous OPT (Occupational “Privilege” Tax) and the new registration fee imposed on those paying this tax. Here’s a new one.

I am the owner of a small business I started in 1980. We are a Chapter S Corporation. We have to file an annual 1120S Federal Income Tax Form, which is due, illogically, on March 15.

For the past few years, this business has lost money. In the past, if nothing was owed, it did not matter if it was filed late. That has changed.

I received a notice from the IRS that I owed a penalty of $356.00 for filing late. This was calculated at $89.00 per shareholder for each month the filing was late, and they erroneously calculated that it was 2 months late. (We only have two shareholders, but image the penalty if you had 1000 shareholders.)

I knew it was only one month late, because in order to file the rest of my IRS forms on April 15, after the local post office had closed, I had to drive out to the old Stapleton Postal Center in order to get it in before midnight. Remember when they used to make a big deal about how you could file after hours downtown? They would have news crews downtown to catch procrastinators filing at the last minute.

Well, no more. No staying open late to accommodate procrastinators. So we had to drive an extra 5 miles to pay after 5:00 pm. Hundreds of cars were flooding into the Postal Center that night.

Today I called the IRS to question the penalty for not filing a form stating I owed nothing. The agent explained that yes, this was a change from last year. Now you will be penalized for a late filing even if you owe nothing. But she hastened to add that there was also a First Time Penalty Removal option that I could get by merely asking for it.

I asked for it, she removed the penalty, and now I owe nothing. Good outcome this year, but be forewarned – late filing of a form, even if you owe nothing, you will be penalized.

The Citizen Squeeze is on. Expect more of the same at every level.

The Taxman - The Beatles