September 7, 2005 Minutes

Minutes of the September 7, 2005 LONGMONT AREA DEMOCRATS monthly meeting

Submitted by Kathy Simon, Secretary

7 pm at 375 Airport Rd, Longmont

The meeting was called to order by President Lee Springer. To save time for our guest speakers the announcements were not presented verbally but were on a one-page handout for all to read and take home. Following is a copy:

Announcements:

1. Treasurer’s report: We have a balance of $2359.38 with no major expenses. You can become a LAD member for a contribution of $10 per year (Jan.–Dec.)

2. The LAD has a stand at the Boulder County Farmer’s Market (held in Longmont) to distribute material on Referenda C and D. If anyone can volunteer to work the stand we need your help each Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. See Shari Malloy after the meeting or call her at 678-8215.

3. Don’t forget our service people over in Iraq and Afghanistan. Go to www.anysoldier.com to find a listing of names and what they need. You can get Flat Rate boxes for free at the Longmont Post Office. Flat Rate means you pay only for the first 3 pounds—$7.70- – even if you squeeze in more than 3 pounds of gifts.

4. Please attend the reception for “The Colorado Walk” in support of Referenda C and D from 5-6 pm at Roosevelt Park Sept. 8. We hope to have press coverage. If you can participate in the walk from Berthoud to Longmont (11 miles) please meet at the Senior Center parking lot to carpool to Berthoud.

5. The Longmont Film Festival will take place Sept. 27-Oct. 1 at the Longmont Center for the Performing Arts. On Sept. 29 the film is “Enron: the Smartest Group in the Room” shown at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $6.

6. We are not verbally introducing our speakers in order to give them and us as much time as possible to cover the issues. So, by way of a written introduction and in order of speaking the speakers are as follows:

Dr. Randy Zila, Superintendent of Schools—proposed mill-levy override.

Chuck Stout, Public Health Director for Boulder County who is speaking as a private citizen—-effect of Ref. C & D on health-related issues

Joe Pelle, Sheriff of Boulder County–term-limited extensions for county officials & 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D

Ben Pearlman, Boulder County Commissioner—effect of Ref. C & D on the county

Karen Benker, Longmont City Council—-city issues which are related to the coming election

7. During the refreshment time after the meeting tonight please be sure to greet several people in the audience who are running for city council positions.

Four guest speakers each had 10 minutes to speak. Two of them brought assistants.

I. RANDY ZILA

He handed out “Mill Levy Override Facts” and explained that this is all about the teachers and the students and the money goes directly to the classrooms. This is not the same override request; the amount is more and different priorites are included. $182 more per year is what it will cost for the owner of a $250K home.

Sandi Searls, School Board President, added that a committee reworked this proposal and chose new criteria: a) measurable results, and b) positive impacts on achievement. Therefore three areas are included in the proposal: teachers, texts, and challenging classes.

In the booklet “Financial Report to the Community” are many interesting charts and facts. A high percentage does NOT go to the Central Administration but to the students.

II. CHUCK STOUT

A public servant cannot take a stand on Ref. C & D. He is speaking strictly as a private citizen.

The needy lose insurance and then go to the County for help with health care, substance abuse, DUI problems, etc. A long list of needs means we try to meet more and more costly needs. Passing Ref. C would suspend for 5 years the limits in TABOR. The average taxpayer would get back $49 the first year, and in 5 years he/she would get back $491 or for a couple in an average household, about $1,000 over the entire five years. This money does not go far in each household, but means so much to the health budget when spent collectively. Higher Ed needs protection for decades to come, or we will have only private schools. Colorado is 50th in child immunizations–and there are only 50 states. Boulder County is doing better than that and voters have said yes to make sure we keep up with immunizations. Ref. C & D are not here to line the pockets of politicians or government employees. They are here to fix the unsafe school buildings, the unsafe roads, the jobs for our kids and grandkids, the higher ed which will supply workers for the companies we hope to attract.

III. JOE PELLE

Ben Pearlman and Joe spoke together for 10 minutes. The county ballot items are all 1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D. They urge a “yes” vote on all four county items. Issue 1A addresses the county budget limits imposed by TABOR. Refs. C & D address the state budget limits imposed by TABOR. For the average taxpayer to receive back $12 to $14 we lose $1.5 million in the county budget. There are no frills, no extras in this proposed 1A issue–just an effort to keep up with costs. Budgets are estimated 18 months ahead and then when we later learn how far short the budget was we have to make painful cuts. Joe discussed the proposals 1B, 1C, and 1D, meant to extend the term limits for 6 of Boulder County’s elected officials. The request is for an added four more years so that they each could serve 12 years instead of 8 years. The polls taken show that 68% favor extending the terms, but only 50% favor eliminating term limits completely. So far 49 counties in Colorado have voted to extend term limits.

Ben discussed services provided by the county. Roads will all disappear or disintegrate unless Refs C&D and 1A all pass this year. Elected officials want to do what they were elected to do, but need the funds.

Joe reviewed how the state budget cuts affect the county costs. When the state cuts money for jails, then inmates are sent to the county jails, which are already crowded. This trickle down of costs would be helped by passing both Refs. C & D and 1A. Recently we had a grass fire near expensive properties west of Longmont; wild fires are very costly–$15K for a slurry bomber is one of the county’s cost. We need to pass 1A and Refs C & D to protect our homes.

IV. KAREN BENKER

Karen reviewed her fiscal background. She was the budget analyst for Gov. Romer and began that job in 1988. The State of Colorado is never allowed to plan budgets with inflation taken into account; it is a very fiscally conservative state. 115,000 jobs have been lost due to shortage in budget here. Prisons have felt the cuts deeply, community colleges have lost the Work/Study programs, and there have been large increases in tuition. Refs C & D would mean that for just 5 years (2005-2010) we would operate under a reprieve of TABOR limits. Our government could keep and spend all that it has collected. If Refs. C & D do not pass? by 2007 we will see cuts in the state budget, closed community colleges, toll roads on I-25 and Hwy 36, $1K increases in university tuition, elimination of the Senior Homestead property tax exemption, elimination of the Dept. of Agriculture (the State Fair in Pueblo), and an ailing economy. No company will want to come to a state where there are no college grads who qualify for jobs, where there is a poor K-12 school system for their families, and where roads are bad. We will see a huge Brain Drain. We will see more and more homeless as visible as they are now on the 16th Street Mall in Denver because budget cuts hurt the mental health and housing and substance abuse agencies, leaving people to fend for themselves on the streets. A Longmont study on homelessness shows the rates are up steeply in Boulder County. Karen mentioned a city issue before the voters, the “street tax.” It also is not an increase in taxes; in 1984 voters approved this tax. We just need to extend it by voting “yes” this year on our mail-in ballots. “Ask not what your (city/county/state) can do for you, but what you can do for your (city/county/state)–vote YES on C & D and on the street tax.”

QUESTION AND ANSWER TIME

Q1: a comment for Karen Benker– The Terry Street issues are important to the citizens of Longmont and people are aware of these issues.

Q2: Amendment 23. If Refs C & D fail it is rumored that Amendment 23 may be changed. Amendment 23 states that schools must be funded.

A2: Randy Zila. We always struggle with how Amendment 23 never really fully funds our school systems. It is still not adequate. See the book, Good to Great by James Collins, an author in our district, to see how too often we settle for being “good” when we could press on to being “great.”

Q3: The charter school have better test scores. Why? They are doing more with less.

A3: Randy Zila. St. Vrain Valley School District provides 95% of the funding at charter schools.

Tom McCoy. Charter schools are able to select their student body members.

Q4: What is the student/teacher ratio in charter schools?

A4: Randy Zila. It varies. 1 to 16 or 1 to 18.

Q5: How would passing the mill levy override reduce student/teacher ratio?

A5: Randy Zila. SVVSD would then be able to hire 75 new teachers and distribute them to various schools districtwide.

Q6: Would those teachers be provided new classrooms?

A6: Randy Zila. Not in all cases.

Q7: Are there fewer special education students at our charter schools than at other schools?

A7: Randy Zila. Severe needs students go to other schools. The test results are reported from the school the student attends.

Q8: Are the teachers in our charter schools qualified? Certified? Licensed?

A8: Randy Zila. That is not necessary so the charter schools may choose any teacher whether “highly qualified” or not. No, some do not have Colorado Teacher’s certification.

Q9: Does the Sheriff’s department try to save gas money by keeping their cars parked more now than in the past?

A9: Joe Pelle. Yes, we try to keep cars parked 25% of the time, but that is very difficult between 9 am and 7 pm. We spend $2.36 now on a gallon of gas. There are several “musts” in the sheriff’s office: ride patrol, fight fires, feed prisoners, answer 911 calls. Ben Pearlman added that 30% of monies from Refs. C & D will go directly to Public Safety.

Q10: For years now we have been dealing with (Doug) Bruce issues and losing the PR battles. How do we win any?

A10: Ben Pearlman. We need to work on our “message.” Piece by piece we are slowly showing Bruce ideas as “bad.” The courts consistently rule against Bruce proposals. Passing both Refs. C & D and 1A are ways we win the PR battles.

Karen Benker. Half-a-million dollars have been collected by Caldara and the Independence Institute–but from whom? and from where?

Q11: a comment—It’s because we keep buying “Corporate Crap.” Quit buying Cokes and SUV’s.

Q12: Where does the sheriff find gas for only $2.36? Most stations have gas for $2.99 a gallon now.

A12: Remember that the government does not pay tax, so gas is a different price.

Q13: No Child Left Behind–Can we get rid of it? My daughter goes to Longmont Estates Elementary and they are just teaching her the tests all the time.

A13: Randy Zila. There are three accountability systems to satisfy: (1) CDE, or the Colo. Dept. of Education, (2) the Governor’s parent reports mailed out with “satisfactory” labels, (3) NCLB, or No Child Left Behind requirements. Under the AYP regulations (Adequate Yearly Program) every subgroup must be counted and 30 kids in a subgroup can sway the results a good bit, and one failing subgroup can ruin the rating for the whole school.

Q14: Is there funding for the NCLB? (No Child Left Behind)

A14: Randy Zila. Very little.

Q15: Does everybody know that the military recruiter has access to their children through the NCLB?

A15: Sandi Searls. Parents can opt out of that. Tests are OK in some ways; the resulting data are useful for teachers to see how to help students.

Q16: How much time is spent on testing instead of direct instruction?

A16: Randy Zila. In February the third grade takes the CSAP, then in March a whole chunk of time goes to CSAPs, on into the second week of April.

Q17: a comment- – testing is only ONE component. There are others.

Q18: We need to look at the whole classroom dynamic and reframe what the Republicans have framed for us.

A18: Randy Zila. We need to have only ONE accountability system, not all three.

Sandi Searls. The issue tonight is not the NCLB; the important thing is to support the mill levy override.

Q19: Hispanic kids are being left behind. Principals are encouraging them to drop out of school. What can we do?

A19: Randy Zila. No principal in this district had better be encouraging any student to drop out. The challenging classes and the P-16 Initiative (if the mill levy override passes) will be for Hispanics, too. We need minorities in the advanced classes.

Q20: Why do we need an SRO (Student Resource Officer) in all public schools?

A20: Randy Zila. An SRO presents a positive presence in our community. They are excellent role models for students. They are the first intervention line. They help with the “at risk” students referred to the County Health programs.

Joe Pelle. Deputies in schools are excellent. Kids communicate and trust this authority figure. Best of all, little problems get solved while they are still little.

Q21: When promoting Refs. C & D how do we counter the claim that they are “tax increases?”

David Ahrens. Say, no, it’s not a tax increase and shift the focus to the programs we need to fully fund. Pick the programs they care about most.

Ben Pearlman. “Not getting a refund” is not the same as “getting a tax increase.”

Karen Benker. Ask people if by failing Refs. C & D would we be getting a tax decrease? No.

Q22: a comment. . GNP will probably be 1% less.

Q23: How can we explain the “Ratchet Effect” in an easy way?

Karen Benker. Take 6 billion, divide by 2.3 million, then . . ummmm, er. . add 14 or. well . . you have 20 thousand, no . . wait. . that’s the confusing way.

Ben Pearlman. Use the comparsion to a reservoir and the rainfall. If you had a reservoir you would want to keep and use all the rain water that fell into it. You wouldn’t keep some of the water and send the rest of the water on down the hill.

ADJOURNMENT.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 pm for refreshments and private conversations with candidates for city council. T-shirts were on sale for $15.

The next meeting will be on the first Wednesday of the month which is Oct. 5, 2005, at 7 pm at the Public Works Facility, 275 Airport Road, Longmont. Andrew Romanoff, State House Majority Leader, will speak on Referenda C & D. This meeting will be a public forum so no business meeting will be held. The public is invited.

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