Saturday, April 27, 2013

Garden Report: Transplanting day

They grow up so fast.  Two weeks ago they looked like this:


And for (some) it is time to move on to bigger quarters:


All five cucumbers, one pepper, two watermelon and four peas have made the transition to the cowpots.  The basil and one more pea are still chillin' in the seed starter.  Two more watermelon and one more pepper have sprouted, and I think that one of the honeydews is finally making an appearance.  Nothing from the zucchini, I think those might be a lost cause.  For an experiment, I am soaking some seeds in water to see if I can get them to sprout.  If they do, they will be about two weeks behind (which isn't too bad, but damn it, I'm hungry now).  T minus 3 weeks to planting.

Outside, the garlic seems to have survived the storms and the lettuce is starting to poke up.  Strawberry transplants are doing okay - they still seem to be taking their time getting established.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

2012 Ballot - Congressional District 4

Now we are hitting the big time. I am a newcomer to Congressional District 4.  Up until now I was a proud resident of Congressional District 2 and Congressman Jared Polis (D) but no more thanks to our fine legislature and it's gerrymandering ways.  Now I am in District 4, a previously overwhelmingly conservative district comprising much of the Northeast corner of Colorado. The addition of the eastern side of Boulder County and the southwestern corner of Weld County had moved it further to the left but not nearly enough to make a competitive race.

Doug Aden (American Constitution) (website, Project Vote Smart, Ballotpedia)
Cory Gardner (Republican) (website, Project Vote Smart, Ballotpedia)
Brandon Shaffer (Democratic) (website, Project Vote Smart, Ballotpedia)
Josh Gilliand (Libertarian) (website, Project Vote Smart, Ballotpedia)
 
Out here in the boonies, we don't grow Congressional power brokers. We get cogs in the wheel that exhaust their usefulness and fade into the sunset. The key for voters in these parts is to find the person that best matches your positions aligned with the party that best matches your positions because lets face it - when push comes to shove, all of the major party candidates are going to fall in line with Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner when the time comes. The best you can hope for is a little backbone to vote against the party on minor issues.

Both of the third party candidates are compelling. On issues alone I probably align most closely with Mr. Gilliland.  But Mr. Gilliland has no shot at winning  and if he did, he would be a pariah in the halls of Congress with little power to sway anything one way or the other.  The libertarian side of the conservative movement can't win through elections. They have to overwhelm and eject the social conservatives from the Republican party.  And they know it. The important thing for them in this election is to stay relevant.

Cory Gardner represents everything about the GOP that the Libertarians are not. He is solidly in the pocket of the oil companies and has spent most of his time in Congress chasing after Solyndra ghosts and other green companies.  Which is strange, considering that two things that northeastern Colorado has a lot of is wind and sun. Even a moderately balanced approach would be a better solution for this district, but Congressman Gardner will have none of it. Other than sticking his head up to go after the Obama administration for the green policies, he keeps mainly to himself voting with the rest of the party 100% of the time. In short he does a fine job of representing his corporate and party interests, but a lousy job of representing my interests.

Mr. Shaffer is a better choice in that regard. Lets not be naive, if elected he won't exactly go against the trend, but his positions and interests better align with mine - balanced energy, gay and lesbian rights, no government control of abortion, etc, etc. Financially questionable of course, but then again anybody who expects the GOP to all of a sudden find (financial) religion is seriously deluded. In the end, money will be spent - the only question in this race is if it will be spent fighting Iran or propping up the economy. If I had the power to choose  only between these two, I would go for the evil on the left (at least we would get gay marriage out of it).

So that's the scene - a terrible representative that does nothing for me, a less terrible candidate that at least aligns with me socially, and a third party candidate that cannot possibly win. And there is one major wild card factor to consider - CO-4 is considered so safe for the GOP that they don't even poll here.

I think my only clear purpose in this race is to vote against the GOP and for that purpose I choose Mr. Gilliland.  I wish I had more than principle to vote for this race, but it could be worse... I could be in Utah.

Next: the most important race for the least influential leader in Washington.

2012 Ballot - State Board of Education

We are coming down to the wire - mail in ballots should probably be in the mail by early next week, so I need to hurry and get these last three races out of the way.  Next up, State Board of Education.

District 4 - State Board of Education - Pamela P. Mazanec vs Steven Ray Dellinger

Pamela Mazanec (R) (FacebookYoutube)
Steven Ray Dellinger (Libertarian)

This race seems to be best covered hereMs. Mazanec's main focus seems to be charter schools.  Dellinger describes his platform as "typically Libertarian" so derive what you will from that. While I appreciate the idea of charter schools, I think that the voucher program goes a long way to making both the charter school and the public school worse for the wear.  There are very few great charter schools and lots of mediocre ones.  Ms. Mazanec also seems to be at odds with the union which isn't always a bad thing, but she seems to derive a lot of her support for being anti-union which is more about ideology and less about policy. But what really seals this vote for me is this from Facebook:

Mazanec for State Board of Education I do agree with the Republican platform concerning sex ed in our public schools. The State Legislature, however, not the State Board of Education, is tasked with passing legislation concerning public education.
 That tells me pretty much everything I need to know about Ms. Mazanec.  I'm going to endorse Mr. Dellinger.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ballot 2012 Part 3 - State races

Part 3 of my ballot research (Part 1, Part 2).  Tonight, we look at the state level races.

District Attorney - 19th Judaical District

This is one of two positions on the ballot with only one (Republican) candidate.  Here we find the incumbent Ken Buck.  We know Ken Buck well - he was involved in bitter and close Senate race in 2010, narrowly losing to Mark Udall.  Mr. Buck is reasonably popular in these parts and he doesn't need my vote.

District 63 - State Representative  Tim Erickson vs Lori Saine

The past year was a tough one in state legislatures around the country.  Ours was no exception. The big fight at the end of the session this year was over civil unions, but taxes and education were big issues too, and the next few years will have to deal with ACA, Medicaid and Medicare issues that are being passed off by the federal government.

Tim Erickson (D) (website, TRACER, Follow the Money)
Lori Saine (R) (website, TRACER, Follow the Money)

Ms. Saine follows a pretty predictable boilerplate for a conservative candidate, fiscally conservative, pro-gun and pro-life.  She has signed the previously mentioned Colorado Union of Taxpayers pledge. Mr. Erikson is slightly on the left for social issues (per Protect Vote Smart).

My red-line issue this year is civil unions which I think is one of the number one issues up before the legislature in the coming year. Mr. Erickson doesn't believe that marriage is just between a man and a woman and supports civil unions per Project Vote Smart. Ms. Saine hasn't answered the question in several places and it is difficult to get past the taxpayers pledge. Put me down for Mr. Erickson.


District 23 - State Senate Vicki Marble vs Lee Kemp

Vicki Marble (R) (website, Project Vote Smart)
Lee Kemp (D) (websiteProject Vote Smart)

When Mitt Romney said he was severely conservative, he was probably thinking of Vicki Marble. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this one.  Ms. Marble seems to be way to far to the right on social issues for me.  I'm not super pleased that Mr. Kemp doesn't support gay marriage, but he does support civil unions which is all I think Colorado has the courage for at this point anyway.

Regent of the University of Colorado

Daniel Ong (Libertarian) (profile)
Brian Davidson (R) (profile)
Stephen C. Ludwig (profile)
Tyler Belmont (American Constitution)
 
Only one of the cannidates responding to the Broomfield Enterprise has children. For regent of the University of Colorado.  I'm not going to go all breeder on you guys but thats like a teetotaller running the Liquor Board (oh, sorry Utah, I didn't see you there).  I like some of Mr. Ong's ideas but I think the more solid choice is Mr. Davidson. 

And there we have it - one more column to go.  State board of Education, 4th congressional district and then the big enchilada.  See you then.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ballot 2012 Part 2 - Weld County Commissioner

Next up on my trip up my ballot (Part 1 here) is the Weld County Commissioner at large seat.  As is the case in most Weld County contests, the Republican candidate is running unopposed.  So the question isn't so much who I'm going to vote for, but rather, am I going to vote for the guy who is running?

This time around we have one Steve Conway, incumbent.  He bring us his own website which took a turn through 1998.  I dig the shamrocks.

According to the front page he is for private property rights (Does that mean he is against seizing properties for eminent domain?), he supports agriculture (don't we all?), wants more water, maintaining public safety, bringing more jobs to Weld County and lastly but not leastly, protecting my second amendment rights.   (Left unanswered is what a county commissioner can legally do for or against gun control but whatever). Missing from his list is support for the oil and gas companies but in Weld County thats a given.  His about page is mostly standard GOP boiler plate but also brags about increasing drug enforcement in Weld County (to be fair around here a good chunk of that is meth, but still a red flag for the legalization minded).

So your usual rural commissioner out to protect us from high taxes and good schools and dudes who want to take our guns. My analysis is that the guy is gonna win but he is going to have to do it without my vote. I pass.

Tomorrow - state offices.  Now we're getting into the juicy stuff kids.

Ballot 2012 Part 1 - Weld County Council

My mail in ballot arrived this week so its time I do a little bit of research.  Of course, we know all about the guys at the top.  There is the one guy, wasshis name and the crazy guy with the white hair against the other guy and the dude with the amazing abs.   I'll get around to them, but first I'm going through the entire ballot from the bottom up.

Despite everything you might hear from the media the really important people in your lives are on the second page. These are the people that set taxes, create regulations, pay for services and do the things that matter to you and your family.  Your local representatives will make more direct decisions about your taxes and spending in one year than the President will in all four of his term.

Over the next few posts, I'm going to analyze my ballot from right here in Weld County, Colorado.  I don't expect anybody to share the same ballot as me, but hopefully I can inspire everybody else out there to take a look at their own down-ballot candidates.  Lets begin.

Weld County Council

From the Weld County website:
The Weld County Council is charged to review all aspects of County government and to make periodic written reports to the people. The Council invites Weld County citizens and employees to present their comments, ideas, or concerns regarding Weld County government for the Council to review.
In addition to reviewing county government, the Council has five functions defined in the Weld County Home Rule Charter:
  1. Set salaries of elected county officials.
  2. Fill vacancies on the Board of County Commissioners and on the Weld County Council.
  3. May suspend an elected official formally charged or indicted for the commission of a crime or when a valid petition for recall of an elected official is presented.
  4. Review conflicts of interest between any county officer, member of an appointed board, or employee, and any enterprise or organization doing business with Weld County.
  5. To consider requests from the Board of County Commissioners to grant an increased mill levy.
Sort of an oversight committee for the county commissioners.  The last one seems pretty important - it sounds like these folks are involved in the tax process.  The position is non-partisan, but anything in Weld County is likely to be reasonably conservative.

There are two positions on the ballot for me this year, one for District 2 and the other for an at large position.  Break it down:

District 2 - Steve Curtis vs Virginia "Ginny" Buczek

Steve Curtis was the Republican State Chairman and Firestone Trustee who was involved with a recent fight between Longmont and Firestone over annexation of a church property.  He also serves on the board of directors for the Colorado Union of Taxpayers which is a local version of the national movement lead by Grover Norquist. They even have their own pledge.

 "Ginny" Buczek is the incumbent and she describes herself here which seems to be mostly word for word the same as a flyer that her campaign helpfully taped to my front door. 

My analysis here is that even though this is an oversight committee that is non partisan and holds no policy setting powers, it would be a good position to launch ones self toward the county commission.  Mr. Curtis's position on taxes (I'm assuming he would sign the pledge if he was elected, but he isn't currently on the list) is not one I share and I'm not dissatisfied with the current state of affairs, so I'll give the nod to Ms. Buczek.

At Large - Donald D. Mueller vs Justin Buxman

Donald Mueller is the incumbent, having been appointed to the board.   Mr. Mueller has served in several treasurer roles in the county and seems your standard upstanding business man type.  He also responded to the Vote 411 questionnaire.

Justin Buxman grew up on a dairy farm and is a small business owner.  His other claims to fame are second vice chairman for the Weld GOP and co-chairman of Young Republicans Colorado.

Like before, I'm inclined to keep the incumbent and the challenger doesn't offer me anything compelling (I'll hazard a guess and think we wouldn't have much in common to talk about at the bar), so like above, I'll keep it status quo with Mr. Mueller.

Coming up next a look at why I'm probably not voting for county commissioner.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Analyzing the 9-9-9 Plan

Lots of people are starting to analyze (and hate) the 9-9-9 plan from Herman Cain and I'm here to jump on the pile.  Following graph is total tax outlay for the 5 categories of earners.  Current is the burden for the current tax code in 2007 dollars.  9-9-9 plan is the burden under the Cain plan:

And here are the taxes as a percentage of income:

You are reading that right - that's a tax burden increase of 18% for the lowest quintile.  That's like a 20% pay cut right off the bat.  Unless you are in the top 40% (or you know, care about stuff and stuff)  I would hope this has dulled your enthusiasm.

(Method:  This is a gross approximation of tax burden based on published effective tax rates from 
http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=456 and spending habits from ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/special.requests/ce/standard/2007/higherincome.txt.  Current tax code values derived from summing average income tax with average payload taxes.  9-9-9 values derived from a raw 9% of earnings plus 9% on total expenditures.  The actual Cain plan will likely have exceptions and caveats that would affect these numbers).