Archive for the 'Transparency' Category

You Can’t Draw Away Scarcity

Posted by on Feb 07 2013 | Economics, Transparency, Transportation

Why on earth does an artist’s rendition of some future utopia merit public policy debate?

Recently, an artist drew a pretty picture of what he imagined high-speed rail could look like in a utopian United States. Why is it utopia you ask? Because only in a utopian world without scarcity could the sparsely populated United States sustain high-speed rail. However, in our current world with scarce resources, high-speed rail can only exist in pretty pictures and in thick red ink on government expense sheets. It is simply not a profitable venture, which is why you see private resources staying far away from rail transit. Nevertheless, big government does not shy away from big losses like the private sector. I can see the slogan now, “No loss is too big to scare us away!”

9News came by the Independence Institute offices the other day to get my thoughts on the whole issue. You can watch the video here, or below in the player.

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Update: Issue Papers and Events Galore!

Posted by on Oct 05 2011 | Citizens' Budget, energy, Environment, Events, Government Largess, PPC, Taxes, Transparency, Transportation

Hellooooo Intertube world! Things are exploding over here at Independence. It seems everyone around our little liberty village has something to say. First up, we’ve got some brand new Issue Papers. Under the guidance of Amy Oliver, Colorado’s Queen of Transparency, Kyle Huwa wrote Issue Paper number 6 titled, Governor’s Energy Office Needs a Dose of Sunshine. From the executive summary:

The Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) of the State of Colorado spent a total of $121,652,884.75 from January 2008 to November 2010. This report aims to clarify and provide transparency to the GEO’s spending. Despite best efforts, the exact nature of many of the expenditures remains unclear.

Indeed, the governor’s energy office’s spending remains unclear to the very people who made that spending possible – us taxpayers. Let us check the books!

Next up we have an extremely timely Issue Paper from Senior Fellow and ex-Professor of Economics at CU Barry Poulson. Along with co-author John Merrifield of the University of Texas, Barry wrote Issue Paper number 7, Proposition 103: What is the Cost to Colorado Taxpayers? It turns out (surprise surprise) that the estimated $2.9 billion tax increase known as Prop 103 will actually cost taxpayers closer to $6 billion. Not to mention over 11,000 jobs and a whopping $2,711 per household! But hey, it’s “for the children” right?

While we’re on the subject, I’d like to remind everyone about a free event coming up that will focus on our state’s budget issues with a long-term view. It’s called Colorado’s Long-Term Budget Dilemma: Two Perspectives. The event is this Tuesday the 11th, downtown at the Denver Press Club. So who are the two perspectives? One will be our very own Fiscal Policy Center Director Penn Pfiffner, who will talk about the findings from our Citizens’ Budget project. The other perspective will be Phyllis Resnick, principal economist for DU’s Center for Colorado’s Economic Future who will be presenting the findings from DU’s study, Financing Colorado’s Future: An Analysis of the Fiscal Sustainability of State Government. We hope you’ll join us for this informative and FREE event next week!

In other exciting news, Transportation expert and Independence Institute Senior Fellow Randal O’Toole will be in town next week! In case you are unfamiliar with Randal, you can check out his blog, The Antiplanner and his latest book, “Gridlock: Why We’re Stuck in Traffic and What to do About It.” Randal will be in town for just a couple days but in that short time he’ll be hosting three events. The first is on Tuesday the 11th at Gander Mountain in Thornton. Randal will be presenting to Hear Us Now on his book, “The Best Laid Plans.” The event is free and will start at 6pm. On Wednesday the 12th, Randal will be heading up to the Olive Garden in Boulder for a lunch event. Here are the details for the Boulder event found on the Land Use Coalition’s webpage. Finally, that same Wednesday the 12th, Randal is going to be the featured speaker at a special Liberty on the Rocks event. Here are the event details:

The True Environmental Impact of Rail ProjectsConverse and drink with fellow liberty enthusiasts on Wednesday, October 12 at Choppers Sports Grill in Cherry Creek from 7-9 pm!

Our special guest for this bonus happy hour will be Randal O’Toole of the CATO Institute, who will spend 10-15 minutes (followed by Q & A) discussing the harmful impact high speed rail has on the environment (despite claims that it is about “going green”).

When: Wednesday, October 12 from 7-9 pm
Where: Choppers Sports Grill | 80 S. Madison Street in Denver (in the back room)

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C Where They Spend Your Money

Posted by on May 20 2011 | PPC, Transparency, Transportation

This past legislative session was pretty ugly for citizens. And especially ugly for energy ratepayers. But one of the few silver linings to emerge was a bill that could serve as a beacon of transparency for years to come. The bill is HB 1002 sponsored by Rep. BJ Nikkel and Sen. Mike Kopp. Rep. Nikkel worked with CDOT to “develop and maintain a publicly accessible, searchable, online database of its revenue and expenditure data.” Translation: taxpayers can see how CDOT is spending their money. Transparency must be in vogue again because the bill passed unanimously! Transparency Czarina Amy Oliver caught a sneak preview of the website and said that this new CDOT transparency website is what our state transparency website (TOPS) was supposed to look like – but TOPS failed miserably. Hopefully the success of the CDOT website will encourage reforms in the awful state transparency website and encourage other departments to take on the honorable task of showing us citizens where they spend OUR money.

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The State of Investigative Journalism in Colorado

Posted by on Jan 20 2011 | Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC, Transparency

What’s the state of investigative journalism in Colorado? Tune in to Devil’s Advocate this Friday to find out as I am joined by Denver Post staff writer Chuck Plunkett and Independence Institute investigative reporter Todd Shepherd to discuss the Denver Post’s new political investigative project, the place of new media in investigative reporting, and the benefits and challenges of utilizing the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA). That’s this Friday, January 21 at 8:30 PM on Colorado Public Television 12. Re-broadcast the following Monday at 1:30 PM.

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Allow Me to Reflect on the Last 4 Years

Posted by on Dec 29 2010 | Citizens' Budget, PPC, supreme court, TABOR, Taxes, Transparency

In case you hadn’t noticed, Governor-for-not-too-much-longer Bill Ritter has been making the rounds with the media in order to “reflect” on his 4 years in office. I figured since he gets to do it, why not me? So let’s take a trip down memory lane as I reflect on Governor Ritter’s 4 years in office…

First I have to say that Bill Ritter is a good person who truly loves Colorado and did what he thought was in Colorado’s best interest.  He is one of the very few politicians I would trust to babysit my kids.  I’m just not happy about the energy bills he is going to make my kids pay.

TABOR: Where do we start with this one. To put it lightly, during the Ritter administration, TABOR was re-worded. The interpretation of our constitutionally protected TABOR amendment by our Supreme Court was a simple piece of advice: don’t say “tax,” just say “fee.” And that’s exactly what the Governor did. He increased our car registration “fees” to the tune of about $250 million a year. He also poked a hole in TABOR allowing fees to slide through via the hidden hospital tax fee. He then raised our mil levy “fees,” soda “fees,” “fees” on paper products, “fees” on Internet sales, “fees’ and “fees’ and “fees.” Why all this “fee” stuff? Simple. By raising our “fees,” he side-stepped the voter approval required of all tax increases. Brilliant!

The “New Energy Economy:” The left correctly despises corporate welfare, but somehow manages to overlook it when it comes to subsidizing “green” energy. How many taxpayer dollars have been confiscated and used to prop up solar and wind companies here? Not to mention all the goodies our state government extends in order to bribe green energy companies to locate in Colorado from out of town. And how can we forget the green energy mandates? Ritter helped push through legislation that upped the renewable energy standard from 20% to 30% by the year 2020. That means a whole 30% of our state’s energy production MUST be from feel-good sources by 2020.  And “renewable”doesn’t include hydro or nuke, go figure. Of course Ritter will be long gone by the time 2020 rolls around and the cost of our energy has skyrocketed.

Oil and Gas: Along with awful solar and wind energy subsidization programs, the Ritter administration helped push through rules that made drilling for oil and gas much more difficult. That was Ritter’s energy policy in a nutshell: punish the cheap and reliable energy sources while subsidizing the inefficient and expensive forms of energy. That way, everyone except green energy special interests lose.

Transparency Hater: When State Rep. BJ Nikkel introduced transparency legislation that would shine a much needed light on government spending, Governor Ritter worked his tail off to try to bury it. He attempted to kill the legislation before it saw the light of day. When that didn’t work, he created a horribly ineffective and user-unfriendly website that the Chinese government wouldn’t even pretend was transparent.

Hollywood Ritter: Let’s not forget that the good Guv spent more than $200,000 of our money on TV, photographs and videos of himself doing things. What things? I dunno, things that governors typically do. Perhaps Carly Simon might have something to say about that…

Enemy of Petitioning Your Government: The Ritter administration was no friend to the citizen initiative process. He signed into law House Bill 1326 which makes the petition process accessible only to the wealthy. In fact, even though our Health Care Choice Amendment lost on election day, I am still being sued over it by the lawyer minions of the left. You gotta love a law that lets the loser of a ballot measure get sued personally for exercising his Constitutional right to petition his government.  Thanks Bill!

Expanding Health Care Welfare State: The Denver Post seems to believe that Ritter’s legacy won’t be his massive green energy initiatives that has resulted in the “new energy economy,” but rather, it will be his expansion of the health care welfare state. The Post writes, “Health care advocates credit the Ritter administration with doing more to expand public insurance rolls than any other governor.” While other states are trying to get out of federal Medicaid arrangements because they are fast-track to bankruptcy, our governor pushes hundreds of thousands of new people into it! Don’t believe that the Medicaid rolls are a state budget buster, take a look at the health care section of our Citizens’ Budget.

That’s about all the reminiscing I can handle for one day. It’s time to look forward to 2011 and the brand new Hickenlooper administration. Good luck John. Remember, if you need any help with balancing the budget, we’ve got the perfect resource for you.

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Mom… Do We Have to Save THAT Job??

Posted by on Dec 23 2010 | Government Largess, Taxes, Transparency

We’re number 4! We’re number 4!

Sometimes being number four isn’t such a great thing. Especially when it comes to completely wasting taxpayer money. Our resident transparency guru Amy Oliver wrote a fantastic blog post on Mothers Against Debt outlining how much each state spent to “report” a job “created” or “saved.” All through the magic of “stimulus” spending of course. Colorado clocks in at 4th worst when it comes to efficiency in using our federal “stimulus” dollars. Each job reported to have been created or saved cost our state a hefty $658,037. That’s BEFORE interest! When it’s all said and done, and interest has been calculated on the money we borrowed to “save” these jobs, we’ll be looking at what… a million dollars per job? Maybe more? That’s almost enough money to save Carmelo Anthony’s job.

Furthermore, most of these jobs saved or created have been government jobs. Not exactly the most productive jobs to have been saved eh? That’s like running into your house as it is burning down to save that piece of scrap paper you scribbled the grocery list on. Really? Eggs aren’t that hard to remember are they?

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Citizen Auditor Training: How to CORA

Posted by on Jul 27 2010 | Government Largess, PPC, Transparency

I told you last week about our Citizen auditor training series and today marks our foray into the western slope, where our citizen auditor teachers find themselves in Grand Junction. After today, there are still two dates left – one in Colorado Springs on July 29th and the other in Loveland on August 12th. Please make it out to one of these if you can. Aside from learning some super cool skills like wading through the murky waters of the state budget, you can win up to $2,500 in cold hard cash!

However, if you really can’t make it out to train in person, I’m still willing to throw you a bone. Our investigative reporter Todd Shepherd has been THE man to know when it comes to Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requesting. This man knows the CORA statutes like Doug Bruce knows escape routes from subpoenas. The information that floats around in Todd’s head is so valuable, we “talked him into” recording a tutorial video on the how-to’s in filing a CORA request with governments and other public institutions. Check out our CORA class website here, and when you’ve finished the tutorial, join our Google discussion group to learn more and ask any questions you might have.

Now go out and audit government! Because it’s your money they’re spending after all.

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Audit the Government and Win Cash Prizes!

Posted by on Jul 20 2010 | Economics, Events, Government Largess, PPC, Taxes, Transparency

If I were going to teach Government 101, the first lesson I’d teach the class would be that the government has no money of its own; it only has what it first takes from us taxpayers. Learning that simple, yet powerful concept is vital to understanding public policy because it pulls the mask off of the cries for more government spending. More government spending ultimately means more wealth taken from those of us who pay taxes. Since government money is in fact OUR money, it becomes obvious that it’s in our interest to make sure that the government spends our money wisely. Every week we hear horror stories of government waste and corruption, but how often do we take a moment to understand that it’s OUR money they are wasting?
Luckily for Colorado taxpayers, Amy Oliver of Colorado Spending Transparency (COST) and Mothers Against Debt always remembers that it is our money they are spending, and reminds us we ought to keep a close eye on how they are spending it.

This is why, with the help of Mothers Against Debt, the Independence Institute, Liberty on the Rocks and Americans for Prosperity, we are sponsoring Citizen Auditor training throughout Colorado. Everything you wanted to know about tracking your money through the bureaucratic nightmare of our state government awaits you in these sessions. After learning how to use the state’s transparency website, how to file Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests, and navigate the unfriendly waters of state and local government budgets, you’ll be ready to set off on your own and be a great citizen auditor.

In fact, those of you who become the best citizen auditors will be rewarded with cash for your efforts! That’s right, we’re going to have a little contest for the best example of wasteful, outrageous government spending uncovered by our new legion of citizen auditors. First place nets a cool $2,500! We’ll also be rewarding a second and third place, plus ten honorable mention prizes. If you’re interested in coming out for some training, we’ll be coming to a town near you.

Dates and locations for training:

Denver: Monday, July 26th, 5 to 7pm, at Pasquinis Restaurant, 8101 E. Belleview Ave. Denver, CO

Grand Junction: Tuesday, July 27th, 6 to 8 pm, at the Old Mesa County Courthouse, Multipurpose Room 544 Rood Avenue (east entrance) Grand Junction, CO

Colorado Springs: Thursday, July 29th, 6 to 8pm, at Rockrimmon Library, 832 Village Center Drive, Colorado Springs, CO

Loveland: Thursday, August 12 5:30 to 7:30pm McGraff’s Restaurant, 1602 East Eisenhower Blvd. Loveland, CO

For more information and to RSVP contact

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The “Fourth Estate” or Fourth “Branch”

Posted by on May 14 2010 | Media, Transparency

Reporters, members of the press, they’ve long considered themselves the “Fourth Estate,” meaning they are as essential to a free society as are the other parts of government. And notice how the press won’t say they’re the “4th branch of government” because that might suggest they are not independent of the government.

But look at a reporter’s career track, or career ladder. Once you do, you might conclude that “branch of government” is more appropriate than “estate.”

One thing is clear: For many reporters, the pinnacle of their career will be when they ditch their low-paying journalism job to take a high five-figure or low six-figure government job as a public information officer.

Doubt me? Check out this list of former reporters now on the government payroll:

  • Mike Saccone – Grand Junction Daily Sentinel – Spokesperson, Colorado AG’s office
  • Mark Couch – Rocky Mountain News – Spokesperson, Department of Revenue
  • Kevin Flynn – Rocky Mountain News – Spokesperson, RTD Fastracks
  • Todd Hartman – Rocky Mountain News – Spokesperson, Governor’s Energy Office
  • Steve Saunders – Ch 7 KMGH – Spokesperson, Adams County School District 50
  • Sarah Huntley – Rocky Mountain News – Spokesperson, Boulder Police Department
  • Evan Dreyer — Denver Post — Spokesperson, Governor Ritter
  • Mark Stevens – Denver Post – Spokesperson, Colorado Department of Education
  • Diane Carman – Denver Post – Media Relations, University of Colorado at Denver
  • Sonny Jackson – Ch 9 KUSA – Spokesperson, Denver Police Department
  • Myung Oak Kim – Rocky Mountain News – Spokesperson, Governor Ritter
  • Karlyn Tilly – Ch 4 KCNC – Spokesperson, City of Golden
  • That’s just a list of current spokespeople who previously held reporting jobs. Go back over the last 10 years, and you’d find the ranks of government equally populated with former reporters.

    But it begs the question…if you’re a reporter, say at the Denver Post, are you going to be especially tough on a government agency where you might be applying for a substantially better-paying job in just six months?

    PS – I think this list is short on names, so if you could drop us a line and point out some more folks who ought to be on the list, we’d appreciate it.

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    Centralization of Private Information: a Political Love Story

    Posted by on Apr 28 2010 | Health Care, Transparency

    Senate Democrats are overjoyed with themselves. Their health care “transparency” bill, HB 1330, is currently on its way to the Senate floor for a final vote. If passed, the bill will create a centralized database of medical information. Whose medical information you ask? OUR medical information. The people of Colorado who visit a doctor, dentist, or pharmacy – that’s who.

    This massive invasion of medical privacy is meant to “help” us by “making the system more transparent and cost effective.” Okay, so then we get a choice in what information gets collected and centralized right? Wrong.

    The bill does not allow entities to opt out of the database. There is no restriction on the information that can be collected. The state can share individual data in any way it deems appropriate. The state can demand detailed data from an individual’s medical or insurer records (the bill calls them provider and payer records). Those data may include information on physical functioning, medical treatment, mental stability, addictions, adherence to government health recommendations, family structure, sexual habits, and financial arrangements. Unlimited fines may be levied on those who refuse to comply.

    Health Care Policy Center director Linda Gorman deconstructed the bill and uncovered five major issues that should concern any Colorado resident who cares about their health and privacy.

    The bill tasks the Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC) with managing the database of information. They happen to be one of the many “public-private” entities that politicians love so dearly.  Public in the sense of state-created and controlled.  Private in the sense of little to no accountability.  What’s not to love right?

    And let’s be real, how much do you trust your most private medical information in the hands these people?

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