Archive for the 'Transparency' Category

IITV #2: Ballot Measure for Open School Board Meetings

Posted by on Aug 20 2014 | education, Transparency

In this second edition of Independence Institute Television, I sit down with host Justin Longo to discuss Proposition 104 – the new Independence Institute ballot measure that seeks to make school board meetings transparent and open to the public. Why shouldn’t these meetings, where school boards and unions flesh out their contracts, be open to the public? After all, even the teachers themselves who must live under the rules of the contract can’t see what’s going on behind closed doors.

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We’re on the ballot!

Posted by on Aug 14 2014 | education, Transparency

Open school board meetings are one step closer to being the law.

Yesterday I was informed by the Colorado Secretary of State that we submitted more than 110% of the valid signatures required to place our question on this fall’s ballot.

Colorado voters will get the chance to do what the State Legislature failed to do: throw sunshine on the most important work of a school board, negotiating its contract with the teachers union. Over 80% of a district’s budget is spent on this agreement, yet parents and teachers are usually shut out of these smoky back-room meetings. How our children will be taught, how they interact with the people with whom we entrust them, and how those people will be treated and paid should NOT be decided in darkness.

We will now have a chance to change that.

I can’t wait to hear the reasons those in the smoky back room will give us to vote against sunshine. How are unions going to say, “We don’t want our members to see how we are really representing them”? How will school boards say, “We don’t want parents and taxpayers to see what we really value”? How will school staff say that a little sunshine will destroy negotiations?

This proposed law would not change the ability for a district and a union to agree on any contract terms they like. Just like the state legislature arguing over the budget, they will just have to do it in public. Stay tuned.

Need a little video entertainment?

KUSA news anchor Kyle Clark joined me for a taping of Devil’s Advocate to talk news coverage. Watch it here.

Can a little person make a big case for Freedom? Justin Longo and I chat about Boulder County shutting down a carnival sideshow because it felt “icky” on this videocast of IITV.

Mark your calendar

What other think tank does firearm trainings? Learn about “The Practical Approach to Colorado Laws on Concealed Carry and the use of Deadly Force” with Dave Byassee on the evening of Wednesday, August 20. To learn more, visit our events page here.

For a list of several other gun safety classes being held at the Independence Institute offices, visit the Shooting With a Purpose page here.

And our friends at American Majority are putting on an incredible event starring Carly Fiorina (former Hewlett-Packard CEO and former U.S. Senate candidate) and radio host Hugh Hewitt on unlocking your political strength. And get this: it’s free! Saturday, August 23, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Check it out now at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/unlocking-potential-all-star-workshop-with-carly-fiorina-and-hugh-hewitt-tickets-12476117403

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Putting sunshine where the sun don’t shine

Posted by on Aug 07 2014 | education, Petition Rights, Politics, Transparency

Last Friday, the Independence Institute took another step towards forcing more transparency in government–school districts in particular.

We delivered over 127,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office to place a citizens’ initiative on this fall’s ballot. If passed, it would require that, when school districts negotiate a teachers union contract, it be open to the public. Pretty radical, huh?!

Here’s the exact wording you’ll see on your ballot in November: “Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes requiring any meeting of a board of education, or any meeting between any representative of a school district and any representative of employees, at which a collective bargaining agreement is discussed to be open to the public?”

Imagine that. Government doing the work of the people, well, in front of the people, and not in smoke-filled back rooms. Isn’t it insane that we have to go through all the trouble and expense of a citizens’ initiative to pry open the locked doors of government?

In the last several years, Republicans in the state legislature introduced bills three times to have Colorado join the 11 other states with such a policy. And three times it was shot down by the special interests who want to continue meeting in the dark: teachers unions and school districts.

Well, since the legislature won’t get the job done, we will! It’s what we do around here.

Financially speaking, the most important function of a school board is negotiating their teachers’ contracts. It can be 80% of the district’s budget. Imagine the state legislature negotiating how to spend 80% of the state budget in a back-room meeting? No one would stand for it. And we won’t stand for it in our school districts, either.

We all have a stake in these talks, and we all should be able to keep an eye on the negotiating table. Teachers can finally observe how both sides represent pay and working conditions. They can finally see if their union and the district really have their interests at heart. Parents could see how policies affecting their children’s teachers and classroom policies are discussed and decided. It’s their children, after all.

Back in June, the Colorado Springs Gazette wrote an editorial endorsing our ballot initiative. You can read their endorsement here.

We’ll find out within 30 days if we’ve made the ballot. You can bet those who love back-room deal-making will hope we fall short of the 87,000 valid signatures needed. We won’t.

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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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