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Thursday, August 7,2014

Behind the Polis Betrayal

By Joel Dyer

So what went wrong with ballot measures 88 and 89? How could these popular citizen’s initiatives written to give local communities more control over drilling and fracking in their neighborhoods have failed to get on the ballot?

Well, the first mistake Colorado citizens made was they trusted a politician, Congressman Jared Polis, to help them with their cause. Polis formed a green-sounding organization, which wrote ballot initiatives 88 and 89 and paid the signature gatherers for their amazing efforts, which culminated in more than 260,000 signatures being gathered, more than enough to put both measures before the voters in November.

In fact, Polis was so effective in his efforts that his organization sucked up all the anti-fracking energy in the state, causing other local-control ballot measures which were written and put forward by actual grassroots activists to be withdrawn. They couldn’t compete with Polis’ money or his organization. And why should they compete, they all wanted the same thing, right?

And so began the Polis show. And what a show it turned out to be.

In the final act, a funny thing happened on the way to the Secretary of State’s office to turn in those quarter of a million signatures from Colorado residents who wanted to protect their families and communities from oil and gas industry contamination; Polis traded them for a bag of magic beans.

Actually, the beans would have been a better deal. Polis traded them for nothing that had anything to do with fracking or local control over industrial activities.

Sure he says we’ll get a panel, not just any panel mind you, but a “blue” effing “ribbon panel” appointed by Governor Hickenlooper. I know, those magic beans are sounding pretty good about now. Oh, and the state will stop suing Longmont.

Does that mean Longmont gets to keep its ban on fracking? No.

So what does it mean? Nothing. 

So why did Polis suddenly, without warning or even a conversation with the people who had worked so tirelessly to put local control over polluting industrial activities to a democratic vote, steal and destroy arguably the most important ballot measures in state history?

That’s the real question that has yet to be answered candidly and why this issue is too important to leave to the column of a frustrated editor.

I believe that what really happened to Colorado citizens and their signatures, is that they were traded like a damn commodity at the national level.

I suspect that the Democratic Party and a number of major environmental groups at the national level were far more concerned with keeping a Dem as governor in a state that is barely blue and hanging on to Mark Udall’s Senate seat and his critical swing vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline than they were about fracking in neighborhoods in Colorado. In fact, most Democrats and environmental groups at the national level are still operating on decades-old science that says natural gas can be a safe bridge fuel to a sustainable future. I’m guessing there are no 67-well production platforms inside the beltway spewing 140,000 tons of VOC’s a year across a kindergarten playground. That’s too bad.

Democracy in Colorado took a hit last Monday and it’s going to take a while to nail down exactly what occurred. But I promise that this paper will do everything possible to expose the real power players, other than Polis and Hickenlooper, behind this betrayal of Colorado voters.

Perhaps this incident will serve as a reminder to all, that change can only occur at the grassroots level. The people of a town or a county and maybe someday a state can make a difference, they can change the laws, they can join hands to protect their homes and families. When national environmental organizations and party politics get involved, community-altering issues like drilling and fracking become little more than photo ops and fundraising opportunities for the environmental glitterati and their political counterparts in Congress.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of a handful of people who think they know what’s best for the environment and our communities manipulating our local democratic process to push their political agendas.

And besides, these cowards got it all wrong this time. They were afraid that Udall and Hickenlooper would lose in November because Republicans would turn out in greater numbers to oppose measures 88 and 89. They caved to this fear and Polis sold out his constituents even though the polling showed that both measures had a good chance of winning despite the spending disparity. It may well backfire.

The apathy that Polis and the people who have his ear have now created among progressives who would have turned out at the polls to vote for the measures in record numbers will do far more to undermine Udall’s and Hickenlooper’s reelection bids than anything the measures would have done for Republican turnout.

In the end, millions of Colorado voters, Democrats, Republicans, Independents and others, lost their right to have their voices heard because a small handful of politically powerful men and woman are afraid of democracy. That’s the real deal behind this betrayal. So stay tuned, I suspect there is much more to come.


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It's easy to blame.

But if the initiative had gone in the ballot, and gone down hard, and the opposing initiatives had passed--very real possibilities considering the spending disparity between Polis (recall he was and still would invest millions in such a campaign) and the industry--then we would have no one to blame but ourselves for not seeing the situation more clearly and moving in the direction of the greatest chance for progress. Unless of course you want to just have a revolution, then you can go ahead. Polis' fight against fracking is personal and serious.  He is the only one who could see all the politics in play, all the prospects for advance, and all the risks to his investment in this policy initiative. If the left showed just a little respect and faith in this human who has responded to them in the past then perhaps they will see more clearly why he decided what he did. Thankfully, I doubt that Polis' commitment to this issue will be dampened by the immediate bad faith and vicious conspiratorial imagination--pent up and unused since the Bush years--that his constituents displayed the other day, towards the only elected official who is on their side.


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What a wonderful article.  Thank you!





"they trusted a politician" about says it all.



I understood this to be as much about good legislation — energy policy doesn't belong cast in the eternal stone of the state constitution. It needs to be responsive to people, industry, the times. Most citizens, even those writing initiatives, don't understand this point.

I think Polis and Hick were less afraid about a loss that would sully Dems and more intent on seeking a compromise where neither side wins all or loses all. After all, they are politicians looking to win moderates.

When not all stakeholders get some small measure of satisfaction, a truce isn't lasting. We're seeing that all too clearly today in the Mideast.  



Unfortunately, this tactic of putting out an initiative and rescinding it at the last minute is all too common. I was involved with a dirty energy ballot measure in the northeast where a similar thing happened--hundreds of grassroots folks gathered over a hundred thousand signatures to get on the state ballot, yet it was pulled by the "leadership" on the last day.

This kind of tactic not only burns out a grassroots base, it's ineffective in the long run, as the best way to change laws is to do it ourselves--not count on politicians and/or agencies to do it for us.