March 30, 2012
Spirit of Oklahoma City
Almost one year ago, city and county leaders returned from Oklahoma City full of fire, energy and enthusiasm. They were impressed by Oklahoma City’s commitment to improving the quality of life for its citizens and were equally impressed by how that commitment had translated into new jobs and community vitality.
What does Oklahoma City do that works? Oklahoma City invests in projects a majority of citizens care about. Its “MAPS 3” program is a 1 cent sales tax that is funding the construction of eight projects over ten years. One of those projects — $39.5 million to build 32 miles of new trails.
Compare that to our PPRTA2. (Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority — proposed to be placed on the 2012 ballot for reauthorization.) It, too, is a 1 cent sales tax. But as for trail projects? El Paso County staff listed nine trail projects to include on the county’s list. One favorite would have provided nonmotorized transportation options for enlisted soldiers at Fort Carson. Another would have connected an existing trail to a junior high school. The three top projects would have cost $391,609. That’s .24 percent of the county’s PPRTA2 share.
The county chose to remove all nine trail projects from the list.
Colorado Springs has set aside roughly 6% of its portion for nonmotorized transportation. That’s very close to what Oklahoma City has committed to trails out of its MAPS 3 program. But mounting political pressure threatens to ignore the public process and cut some city trail projects to make room for more highway projects.
In other words, the city could follow the county down the same narrow road.
It’s time for trail users to remind political leaders — we pay that one cent sales tax too, and we vote. And it’s time for city and county leaders to recapture that “spirit of Oklahoma City.” There’s no reason a “total transportation system” can’t be our vision, too. And a total transportation system includes trails.
Susan Davies, Executive Director
Trails and Open Space Coalition
Too many shenanigans
Okay, now I really feel hornswoggled.
First, our president gives $50,000 to each of the Afghanistan victims of our rogue soldier. That is probably the right thing to do, but the recipients are being told, “That money comes from President Barack Obama.” This was from a recent Associated Press article.
I’m sorry. Did I misunderstand, and that money came out of our president’s back pocket? I think not. That money comes from the American people, and is not a personal gift from the president. For him to take sole credit is outrageous.
Then, as icing on the cake, in an accidental open-mic gaff to the Russian president, he admits that he is asking the Russians to hold off pressure on international matters and give him “some space.” He said, according to reporters who recorded him, “This is my last election ... After my election I have more flexibility,” expressing confidence he will win a second term.
That means he won’t have to be accountable to the American people when he is no longer facing another election. The Russian president promised he would pass on that request to wait until after the election to the incoming Russian president.
Again, it is outrageous that an American president would promise anything to another country “after the election” when he is no longer accountable to the voters.
This is as bad as our finding out just how much the health care plan will cost us — after the election. None of the hikes in coverage take effect until after the election. This seems to be his plan — hit us with everything after we can’t do anything about it.
I certainly hope that this kind of behavior is something your readers will remember in November. Even if we voted for him last time, these are too many shenanigans for my taste. Let’s vote this guy out, and get someone, anyone, that we can trust not to take credit where no credit is due, or make under the table deals with other countries.
We all know the answers
A story by the Associated Press March 25, stated that the U.S. paid $50,000 in compensation for each villager killed and $11,000 for each person wounded in a shooting rampage carried out by a rogue American soldier in southern Afghanistan. The total amount came to $866,000. The story went on to say that the families were told that the money came from President Barack Obama.
I would like to know why these families were lied to. If, as the story said, the U.S. paid the compensation, why is Barack Obama taking credit for it? If they were told the money came from Obama, would they not certainly think the money came from his personal funds? Why were the people not told that the money came from the American people?
I’m pretty sure we all know the answers to these questions. This disgraceful deception should not be allowed to go without criticism.
We aren’t on a level playing field
March 18, my friend, Former Senator Ed Jones published a column in The Gazette: “Future of Affirmative Action could hinge on the Supreme Court”.
Ed and I have been friends for a number of years, we have mutual respect for each other’s opinion but we disagree on his stance on affirmative action.
In its tumultuous 48-year history, “affirmative action” has been both praised and pilloried as an answer to racial inequality. The term “affirmative action” was first introduced by President Kennedy in 1961 as a means of addressing discrimination that had persisted despite civil rights laws and constitutional guarantees. In today’s world, activists refer to it as “equal opportunity” — because that is all that is asked for, an equal opportunity to succeed.
Equal opportunity ensures that all people, including women and people of color, enjoy the same opportunities for promotions, salary increases, career advancement, school admission, scholarships and other vehicles of upward mobility. Equal opportunity programs ensure that girls, not just boys, are exposed to math and the sciences, that those who speak other languages, not just English, receive scholarships, that those who are the first in their families to attend college can do so — not just those families for whom college attendance has historically been a given.
But, equal opportunity programs were not meant to last forever, Like Ed opined on the subject, I agree, they should be a temporary remedy and should end once there is a “level playing field.” We are not there yet.
Let’s look at the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, under the leadership of Sheriff Terry Maketa. Sheriff Maketa during his ten years as sheriff has not promoted any people of color to either bureau chief or commanders. His current upper leadership consists of all white males and one white female.
Within the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office are three bureaus, Law Enforcement consists of Investigation and Patrol, Detention consists of the Criminal Justice Center (CJC), Court and Transportation and the third is Administration. Unfortunately, people of color, specifically African Americans and Latinos employed with the sheriff’s office are assigned to the Criminal Justice Center, the jail, behind the walls, where they cannot be seen by the public. Does this depict a “level playing field?”
I don’t walk around with blinders. The El Paso County Sheriff Office is not the only county department experiencing this exclusion in its ranks but, it’s the only one I’ve had the personal experience to witness.
Equal opportunity programs that would be intentional about diversifying the ranks of city and county employees, for instance would not create an impression that black and brown people can’t achieve success without a handout, it would instead create the impression that the city and county are doing everything to open doors of opportunity and advancement to all people.
No matter what, the playing field must be leveled and opportunity must be available to all. I guarantee, black and brown kids can do just as well as their counterparts once the field is level. Let’s try that first and I’m sure, “affirmative action” will die on its own.
Henry D. Allen, Jr., Legal Redress
Colorado/Montana/Wyoming State Conference NAACP
Gumption’s a fine old concept
What steps should government officials take to mitigate the ills besetting our city enterprises? Trouble seems systemic throughout the Urban Renewal Authority, the USOC deal, Colorado Springs Utilities, and Memorial Health System. Identifying the underlying cause may be the easy part; correcting multiple problems calls for the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job.
With regard to Memorial, editor Wayne Laugesen cites delegation of authority and lax oversight by City Council for giving Memorial Health Administration and its rubber stamp board virtual autonomy (Gazette March 14). He calls upon council to rescind that authority delegation and return to genuine supervision by elected officials.
Proper oversight of all city entities by city council, auditors or competent independent analysts would go a long way toward restoring taxpayer trust in government. Nothing turns off taxpayers or gets their dander up like the perception that tax dollars are being wasted or resources misused.
People were not thrilled to see Memorial Health spend a million dollars lobbying for an independent nonprofit. That rankling discontent you still feel in the community is over the USOC deal. The taxpayers could only watch as a small coterie of “whatever it takes” dealmakers obligated them to 30 years of multi-million dollar payments without a vote.
Negotiations are under way to lease Memorial Hospital. Predictably the Board of Trustees wants to pay bonuses to executives to do a job for which they are already well paid. Some are calling for a special election in August for the Memorial Hospital lease issue. That would cost $350,000 or more. If put on the general election ballot in November, there would be no additional cost and draw significantly larger voter turnout. After two-plus years of discussion and three task forces, voters will have time to digest all details of the issue before marking a ballot.
Gumption is a fine old concept. Council members and other government authorities will need it to recover oversight which is rightfully their domain but has been sorely missing.
John A. Daly
Why a black tea party?
After a phone interview I granted a columnist for The Colorado Springs Gazette, his column appeared March 21. In his column the writer asks “Why a tea party for blacks?” and if there will be “tea parties for Jews, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders.” He concludes his column by making an analogy between our group and a circus.
Though the circus line was a bit of a low blow, the previous questions are reasonable and deserving of an answer. Why do we call ourselves the “black” tea party? Personally, I have no issues with members of a race, ethnicity or national origin banding together for camaraderie, fellowship and/or the preservation of culture and traditions. I was born in Chicago and spent many of my adult years there. In Chicago you have Jew-town, China-town, Greek-town, and just about every other kind of town. The traditions, recipes, festivals, methods of worship and ways of the ‘old country’ are held high esteem and are intact because of just such divisions of peoples. Know what? It’s all good.
If people who have a common ancestral lineage want to gather, meet, have clubs to which they belong — that doesn’t weaken America it strengthens her. Its a part of the fabric and the whole tapestry is stronger when its individual fibers are healthy.
We identify ourselves as being founded and run by black folk so other (conservative) black folk can find us. Conservative blacks are a minority within a minority, and the tea party movement has successfully been branded as racist. Its not true, but perception is reality and that’s the perception. So we colored folk have a hard enough time getting past the “tea party” moniker in the first place. If we were just “The Rocky Mountain Tea Party” chances are our brothers and sisters of color would tend to avoid, not seek out our group. The word “black” is in there to serve as a beacon.
And I’m pleased to say it is working. Others may dismiss us, may call us a circus, may do what they can in an attempt to marginalize the RMBTP — but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re hosting a candidates forum for El Paso County Commissioners this month, that our meetings are getting larger and larger, that we field requests for speakers at events all over the state and that people (of all colors) are wearing our T-shirts and placing our bumper stickers on their cars. Our budget nearly doubles every quarter, we’re out doing radio interviews all over the state, our Facebook page is at over 1,000 fans already and we are making a difference.
So call us whatever you’d like in your little columns. I’m glad to have the publicity. We are black-Americans, we are proudly conservative in our social and political views and we don’t care who knows it. In fact, the more who hear the message the better.
Derrick Wilburn, Founder
Rocky Mountain Black Tea Party
Necessities trump luxuries
I’ve vacillated on writing this because I doubt seriously it will change minds. But my conscience demands I write out of responsibility as a citizen. In a sentence — renewable energy alone will not get this nation back to prosperity.
I applaud renewable energy, but renewable energy focus and initiatives will not power the millions of fossil-fueled vehicles our nation’s economy depends on. I’d love to see solar-powered and “hybrid” freight trains and semitrucks deliver essential goods across this nation, and wind-powered turbines provide all the electricity needed across every square mile of this nation. But, it isn’t going to be practical in my lifetime.
So, one question for our national leaders, in both the White House and Congress — why in good conscience can’t we implement a multifaceted energy policy that also accommodates more extraction of our own fossil fuels? I acknowledge that our high fuel prices at the common everyday gas pump for American consumers are affected by many factors. But some of those factors (instability in Iran, increased Chinese consumption of oil, uncertainty of flow from OPEC) can be mitigated by more reliance on our own domestic oil sources, and those of our closest trading ally, Canada. Please don’t play the environmental card. The White House, the Senate, and the House should all grow some backbone to implement a sound multifaceted energy policy with safeguards against environmental disasters, and hold oil companies accountable if such occurs.
Stifling expanded domestic extraction is killing our economy. I can’t contribute to economic recovery because I can’t afford to, with these gasoline prices. I have to budget my limited resources for mortgage, utility bills, food, medicine, and gasoline for an 8-year-old car (I can’t afford a new “hybrid” or Volt).
Necessities just to survive trump luxuries or discretionary items to spur the economy. In summation, incentivize renewable energy, but take the cuffs off expanded domestic extraction as well. It’s that simple for me, a commoner. Otherwise, our economy will never recover fully, and unemployment will go back up.
Brian L. Vickers