2010

28 April 2010: Rep. Levy schools challengers on big issues

Levy schools challengers on the big issues

Despite my passion for tea, I had never been to a tea party, a real one or a so-called one. I drink easily four to six cups a day, which probably is more evidence of my un-Americanism to Tea Party types, to the point of needing to show my birth certificate when traveling through Arizona.

Before leaving for the town hall meeting with Rep. Claire Levy last week at the Idaho Springs Elks Club, I thought to brew a mug as I often do to sip on the drive, but decided to forego it as I had an itchin’ that something else was a-brewin’.

Arriving at 6:45 for the 7 p.m. meeting, I encountered a woman who seemed to be most anxious to get it going.

“They’re late!” she proclaimed as I checked my watch.

Moments later, Rep. Levy walked in with Democratic co-chair Jimy Murphy toting a veggie tray, chips, guacamole and cookies.

In short order, folks began trickling in including Steve Schultz, the Republican chairman, which to me was unusual as the only chance I get to share thoughts with Steve is when our shopping carts bump at Safeway. I tried recalling seeing him before in the same room with Rep. Levy but couldn’t. He seemed preoccupied, and quick enough, in walked a contingent of Republicans, several in suits, white shirts and ties.

I checked my mental calendar, and sure enough, it read, “election year.”

At that point, I was wishing I had brought some tea, caffeinated — it held promise to be an entertaining evening. Three cups were called for. The air was electrified from the get-go as I helped myself to broccoli, tomatoes and baby carrots.

Rep. Levy had asked Rep. Mark Ferrandino of the Joint Budget Committee to accompany her to help answer budgetary questions. Quickly though, Ferrandino made two major gaffes: he gave a thoughtful answer that was a tad too lengthy for one member of the audience, and he said we lived in a “democracy.” That got things hoppin’.

“We live in a republic!” the formerly-anxious-now-agitated woman reminded him.

“Whoa,” I thought. “No need to get your dander in a tizzy over a common semantic slip.” But then, she was right, at least partially. While the U.S. as a whole and every other state has a true republican form of government, Colorado does not. She had forgotten about TABOR and how it has removed power to raise taxes from every legislative body in the state. Since the only way to raise taxes in Colorado is through a direct vote of the people, also called “democracy,” Rep. Ferrandino was essentially correct.

I thought about pointing that out when Rep. Levy reminded us that she and her colleagues had no taxing power, but I thought better of it.

To their credit, several asked unscripted questions and actually engaged in reasonable dialogue with the representatives about issues including nuclear power plants, prisons, higher education and the misreading of the bill that has gotten Amazon.com into a snit.

There were others with written questions — actually, statements — gleaned from the Tea Party Manifesto: “Do you believe government should have the power to seize your property while at the same time castrating you?”

OK, I jest; they really didn’t ask about castration, although castrating Colorado’s legislative bodies is still a big hit.

To critical thinkers, the refrains “my taxes are too high” and “government is too big” are meaningless in themselves being they are relative statements. Compared with what? They also ring hollow when voiced by those who voted twice to support one of the greatest expanders of government in American history — read my lips: George W. Bush.

Nevertheless, the exchange got at times to the core of public policy and philosophy: Why should, for example, producers and vendors of products that are directly correlated to juvenile diabetes and obesity and thus contribute to our health-care crisis be given tax breaks in the first place? Should a flat 3 percent cut be enforced on every program and department, even ones that would aversely affect areas dominated by Republicans such as the Eastern Plains?

I hate to gloat, so I won’t. But it was quite apparent that Rep. Levy knew her stuff and her visceral challengers were getting schooled. She kept her cool as did Rep. Ferrandino, answering every question with dispassionate reason and supporting her positions with facts and numbers.

In the end, it turned out to be a less-than-riveting, decaffeinated entertainment with Rep. Levy swatting every curve and fastball hurled her way. If Troy Tulowitzki had her muscle, Barry Bonds’ record would be shattered by Labor Day.

By 8:30 p.m., Steve had left and so did I, wonderin’ where I had heard all this before.

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