Email letters, November 8, 2013

Why did New York pol support Amendment 66?

Now that the recent election has concluded, the votes counted and the feelings of both country and state voters known, lots of folks have at least one cause for reflection.

On Sept. 18 The Daily Sentinel editorialized its support for Amendment 66, stating initially “There are a multitude of reasons to support Amendment 66.” We now know of its resounding defeat.

As a career-long Colorado educator (now retired), I voted against the amendment for a multitude of reasons. This is not an “I told you so” effort — not at all. Any thoughtful voter always asks, “Who is behind such an effort?” One didn’t have to look far.

As it turned out, our governor supported it, but of all things, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg poured $1.3 million of his own money to support it. Now, why would he do such a thing? What were/are his motivations?

The Daily Sentinel did an excellent job of revealing Ed McVaney’s motivations. I do sincerely hope we learn those of Bloomberg. Perhaps the Sentinel can help.

FRANK ROGER LITTLE
Grand Junction

Leany should study historians who conduct meticulous research

Jeff Leany’s history ideas spurred me to refresh my knowledge. I always felt cheated by school history.

Reality is better than hero worship. Our founders sported massive insecurities, large egos and extreme disagreements. The genius is their final document. Continuing to learn is its own gift. Our founders created a “liberal” republic, a word they used liberally. The conservative was monarchy. And I didn’t realize how few white Americans had voting rights well past the founding.

We were Britain’s quagmire. That and the French are the only reason we won. Americans, top to bottom, really didn’t know what they were doing. Confederation didn’t work like in Switzerland or the Netherlands. We were too large. The point was preventing anarchy, tyranny and monarchy,

George Washington disliked the undisciplined militias who deserted every chance they could. The patriot public wasn’t any better. Washington chose Valley Forge because of plenty of available farm food, but local patriots wanted silver, not paper, so they sold to the British and let our boys starve. Another thing just realized: The original American settlers in Texas and California were illegal immigrants.


Leany should study the historians willing to slog through the original research such as David McCullough, Eric Foner, Joseph Ellis and Ron Chernow.

Pauline Maier’s “Ratification” had a surprise ending, for me at least. One recent history about the Great Depression that left me muttering “OMG” every other page is “Fear Itself” by Ira Katznelson, a must-read especially for Southern tea partiers. Some of the most amazing histories are about the people and times surrounding the main characters,

Disjointed quotes aren’t history. As John Adams said, “Absolute power in a majority is as drunk as it is in one.” And that’s not the full story.

EILEEN O’TOOLE
Grand Junction

Despite discomfort of rollout, Obamacare to hold insurance companies accountable

In the past several months, the media has made us aware of the many people losing their insurance coverage, and usually accompanied the report with some sort of statement that this was the fallout from the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

As with all things, especially government initiated, the new laws governing health care are not all good or all bad, contrary to what the individual parties would like to have you believe. While it is not hard to find a gripe about the Affordable Care Act to hang your hat on, I find it amazing that holding insurance companies accountable would be one of them. Especially when the policies that were lost were those that would not hold up to the most basic requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Why would anyone want to pay excessive premiums for substandard coverage?

The insurance industry is one of a very few large conglomerates exempt from anti-trust laws, thus allowing insurance companies to operate under questionable business practices for almost 70 years since the laws were implemented.

The simple explanation of the anti-trust regulation is: Legislation enacted by the federal and various state governments to regulate trade and commerce by preventing unlawful restraints, price-fixing and monopolies; to promote competition; and to encourage the production of quality goods and services at the lowest prices, with the primary goal of safeguarding public welfare by ensuring that consumer demands will be met by the manufacture and sale of goods at reasonable prices.

This legislation allows states, if so inclined, to police insurance companies to a limited degree, but being a large employer in many states, there has been little regulation of the industry in favor of better employment numbers. States realize that if they exercise too much regulation the offending insurance company will just stop selling coverage in their state. The consumer ends up carrying the burden of these decisions by having to pay higher premiums every year or taking less coverage.

As a previous business owner and consumer, I have struggled with how to remain properly insured and balance a budget at the same time. Usually what we do as a consumer or business is to sacrifice some of our coverage or increase our co-pay/deductible to make it affordable. Neither choice is ideal.

When the assistance of the insurance company is needed, we find, in some cases, a cap on the coverage or some other contingency limits the insurance company’s liability.

The loss of your insurance is because of the reasonable requirements now being thrust upon the insurance industry. Not because the Affordable Care Act is bad, but because it is requiring, for the first time, the insurance industry be legislated to operate good business practices and if nothing else use a “moral compass” when dealing with its clients.

For this to be an argument against the Affordable Care Act is akin to saying that the government should not have endorsed child labor laws, equal rights or minimum wage. There are just certain things that need to be governed or the nature of human greed tends to take over. This has never been more obvious than in the insurance industry. Those that tend to think that the increased premiums, decreased coverage and lack of customer service are all required so we can have any insurance at all, may be interested to know just how these companies are doing.

In the midst of a deep economic recession, America’s health insurance companies increased their profits by 56 percent in 2009, a year that saw 2.7 million people lose their private coverage. The nation’s five largest for-profit insurers closed 2009 with a combined profit of $12.2 billion, according to a report by the advocacy group Health Care for American Now.

Where is this money going? Forbes reports that income for insurance company CEO salaries far exceeds those in most other industries, with the highest reported salary above $22 million, the average just under $6 million and the lowest just above $1 million. Many insurance company CEOs are paid a generous base salary and bonuses, as well as stock options with potentially significant future values.

We tend to only hear what our party is preaching, and in this day and age it is hard to get unbiased information. How good or bad this act is will not be determined on speculation or party platform, it will only be determined by the test of time, as have the measures of presidents.

There may be many issues that should be addressed about the Affordable Care Act, but getting the insurance industry to finally start practicing fair and moral business in our country is not one of them.

JOHN KUFAHL
Grand Junction

Service members urged to share personal stories on Veterans Day

Many in our communities view Veterans Day as devoted strictly to those who died in service to our nation, While we have a responsibility to remember those service members who sacrificed their lives for us, today is also about those who returned to us.

So, please, take a moment to bow your heads in remembrance of those who have passed on, and on Memorial Day do something exceptional in their memory.

After that time of reflection, spend Veterans Day in celebration of those who returned to us — those who stepped forward when duty called and have stories of their own.

Tell your children about their great-grandfather’s service in World War II.

Let them know that when the nation needed more soldiers on the front lines their grandmother donned a uniform so that could happen, Tell them why she couldn’t serve on the front lines as today’s female soldiers do.


If you are a veteran, I ask you to share your stories — the good, the bad and the often strangely unique.
Tell us about your unit’s first sergeant who kept his pogie bait (snacks) under his bunk and was knocked out of it after a European boar snuck into camp and under the tent walls in search of something to satisfy his sweet tooth.

(A “pogie” was a company clerk; a “pouge” was someone who served in a rear eschalon unit. The “bait” was food or drink used to bribe them for favors that only they could do, Since the 1960s it refers to any nonissued food carried by a soldier in the field. Hence, the term “pogie bait.”)

Tell us about the time your boots froze to the deck of a landing craft when a “winter” storm blew up in June on the north Atlantic.

Share your story about stepping out of a HUMVEE to meet nature’s call, only to realize you were standing on unexploded ordnance that had been nearly buried by the wind.

And, yes, every one of the above is a true story.

These are the stories you lived and we need to hear. On Veterans Day, celebrate your lives and the lives of those with whom you served.


PATRICIA HITT
Acting Director, VA Medical Center
Grand Junction

PERA team in Denver prudently manages well-deserved pensions

I am a retired public employee. I invested six years to earn two college degrees because advanced education was necessary for me to do my job. I saved 16 percent of my meager salary for 30-plus years, and the investment team at Colorado PERA successfully managed my retirement money and the retirement money of many other Colorado public employees.

Now, public employees and our retirement programs are being attacked by investment firms, banks, so-called think tanks and politicians nationwide.

I am told public employees are a burden to the taxpayer (as if I am not a taxpayer myself) and our retirement plans are the cause of the country’s economic hardships. From my perspective, I was in a never-ending struggle to do my job, while at the same time managing numerous fundraisers for the programs I was being asked to lead.

Teachers, corrections officers, state troopers and other public employees are being told that we need to change our successful plans to plans with individual retirement accounts. Don’t be fooled into believing that this approach saves taxpayers money. It does not. For more than 80 years, the not-for-profit PERA investment team in Denver has prudently invested for the retirements of one-half million Coloradans.

PERA is one of Colorado’s best investments, returning Colorado dollars to the Colorado economy many times over. PERA retirement payments ultimately support local businesses, generate tax dollars and ensure that Colorado’s public employees are secure in retirement and able to avoid burdening our already strained social safety net.

I would like to see the day when all Coloradans have an opportunity to invest in a plan like PERA.

ROGER FULKS
Delta

Legislature urged to consider state lottery to fund education
 
Two years ago, I tried to convince the Colorado Education Association and several members of the Colorado Legislature that an education lottery would be the way to go on K-12 school funding.

Some of these people told me that a second constitutional amendment would not fly at that time. They wanted to keep pushing for a tax through the Legislature.

I knew that Amendment 66 would fail, due to the slow economy and taxing on top of other taxes. Amending the current Colorado Lottery to fund K-12 schools would be a more fair approach.

Even though I like funding parks and recreation through the current lottery, it is time for the state to get creative and progressive on K-12 funding. The Colorado Legislature and Colorado voters could amend the current constitutional lottery amendment to fund our schools.

The Legislature needs to consider this concept in its next session. It is simple, smart and fair!  Most of all, it is not a tax.  Buying an education lottery ticket would be for a great cause.

RANDY FRICKE
New Castle

Tipton urged to support chained CPI for seniors

Monday’s front-page article (11/4) from the Associated Press regarding older Americans not wanting any changes to Social Security is exactly what most Coloradans want, too. Unfortunately, many in Washington don’t see the changes and the harm they do to so many older Americans. The chained Consumer Price Index will reduce the Cost of Living Adjustments by 0.3 percent per year to older adults, adults with a disability and to a surviving spouse and children.

This may not sound like much, but if you are already living on approximately $1,100 a month, this $30 reduction can be significant; $30 is a bag of groceries. Since the reduction in benefits is cumulative, within three years it will be a reduction of $130 and even more groceries.

This is no way to treat our older adults who have provided many years of hard work paying into the Social Security system. If there are going to be any changes to the CPI, Washington should implement the CPI-E (experimental CPI for Americans 62 years of age and older) that has been under study by the Bureau of Labor for the past three decades.

The CPI-E takes into account the true spending of an older adult. Since adults 65 and older tend to use more medical- and health-related services than those younger, the CPI–E takes this into consideration. Using the CPI-E to determine the Social Security COLA would increase the expected average COLA by about 0.2 percent per year.

With the current national debt, I am not advocating for the CPI-E to be used, but I am asking Rep. Tipton to support the chained CPI for Social Security and to not support any cuts to Social Security or Medicare.

JEANETTE HENSLEY
Grand Junction

Jared Wright’s bill to protect streams would grow government

I was surprised to find an e-mail I had sent Republican Minority Leader Brian Del Grosso quoted in the article on Jared Wright’s announcement for his re-election bid. However, I was glad to see Rep. Wright provided me with precise examples of why he is unfit for his Office.

Rep. Wright believes his primary duty is to block the Democrats from growing government and wasting taxpayer dollars. I think his primary job is to represent the people of his District.

Wright touts one of his bills, the “Protect Our Streams” License Plate, which he co-sponsored, as a victory for the Western Slope. This bill not only grows government by creating yet another specialized license plate, it also wastes taxpayer dollars in two ways: It forces all license offices to show the sample plate, and $25 from the sale of each of these plates will go to Trout Unlimited, an private not-for-profit environmental organization.

Trout Unlimited is one of the leaders in blocking development of energy resources on the Western Slope.

The Western Slope continues to lag behind the state in the economic recovery. Energy development is one of our keys to recovery. Rep. Wright is proud of funding the group that is blocking our recovery. I wonder how those EnCana workers or the coal miners in Delta County who just lost their jobs would feel about this.

Mesa and Delta counties face reduced revenue from the economic downturn. We are faced with tough choices in what cuts we have to make in services. Meanwhile, our representative in Denver thinks his job is to block Democrats and pass bills that slow our recovery.

Jared Wright is the wrong choice for western Colorado.

KEVIN MCCARNEY
Clifton

In fracking debate, communities should decide what is locally reasonable


Given the potential benefits of renewed oil and gas development to our local economy, it’s not surprising that the Sentinel would oppose a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), aptly warning “Don’t lose opportunity to leave OPEC behind.” However, contrary to its editorial’s unqualified concluding assertion, more-localized fracking bans are decidedly not “the opposite of rational public policy.”

C.R.S. § 34-60-102(1)(a)(I) states Colorado’s “rational public policy”:  to “Foster the responsible, balanced development, production, and utilization of the natural resources of oil and gas in the state of Colorado in a manner consistent with protection of public health, safety, and welfare, . . ..”

C.R.S. § 34-60-102(2) presumes a concurrent and coherent national regulatory regime, in which Colorado’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is “empowered to exercise such powers and authorities as may be delegated to it by the laws or regulations of the United States, . . ..”


However, since 2005 – when Congress codified the “Halliburton Exceptions” to the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water Acts—regulation of “fracking” has been incoherent (because the EPA and the COGCC are legally barred from regulating “fracking wells” as “underground injection wells” as Congress intended), and irrational (because both are also legally precluded from regulating toxic “fracking fluids” as “pollutants”).

Thus, even if “Colorado has some of the best” oil and gas regulations, they remain clearly constrained by dubious policies, Consequently, it is quite understandable that potentially affected communities would seek to exercise their presumably inherent powers and duties for the “protection of public health, safety, and welfare.”

C.R.S. § 34-60-127(1)(c) imposes a “reasonable and necessary” standard on developers’ intrusion on surface rights. The Sentinel should opine that communities have the right to decide what is locally “reasonable,” while the industry must bear the burden of proving what is really “necessary.”


BILL HUGENBERG
Grand Junction



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Beware of using a “Lottery” to fund education.

I lived in California during the campaign to legalize a lottery. Their campaign cry was that the revenue would go to the schools. Before I moved, I read somewhere that less than 40% of the money was actually getting to the education system. The rest was siphoned off to the general fund to meet state budget shortfalls.

Colorado doesn’t need to go down this road.

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