LIVEBLOG: Golden gathering asks what can recovery plan do for us

The group gathered at a cafe in downtown Golden continues discussing the stimulus plan.

7:45 p.m. – Jobs, jobs, jobs, the group agrees.

The Denver Health nurse makes a pitch for a transition to a green economy, points to Colorado’s benefits from Amendment 37 (requiring renewable energy sources make up a rising percentage of power generated in the state) and says it needs to happen nationwide.

Reilly says Obama is a 21st Century president because he’s making energy and climate change essential questions of national security.

A woman says she has several friends who work at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, who were dismayed when energy prices slid last fall and plans for research dried up.

Big round of applause for a man who said he has made his house “carbon-negative,” including his plug-in car which brought him to the meeting tonight. He says cutting energy losses through insulation and caulking is the “most important thing,” even more important than adding things like solar energy panels.

“Fifty states are in deep trouble,” a woman says, urging the feds to make sure the states don’t wind up in the kind of terrible shape they’re headed toward. On the flip side, she says, states must be accountable with any federal dollars, citing Louisiana and concerns over rampant corruption.

A woman says “harnessing the talent of seniors” will go a long way to fixing the economy. Put a small amount into retraining seniors and they’ll give back plenty. Especially single women over age 65, the woman says, a group with vast talent but also high risks for poverty.

Zero in on foreclosure problems, the massage therapist says. Once a community loses tax base as homes go into foreclosure, it’s harder to maintain basic services and the spiral is underway.

More proposals about tapping the energy of the nation’s seniors, perhaps with a volunteer database.

8:00 p.m. – The group moves on to “brainstorm about specific actions we can take.” Alice Atkins takes over from Patricia Reilly to lead the discussion.

Atkins challenges the group to take responsibility for ideas in their own lives — write your members of Congress and the state’s two new senators. She also urges getting in touch with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi because “they’ve got tough jobs” this week. A man stands and urges everyone to call friends in Texas and other states and encourage them to contact their senators.

A man urges a 5-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax to discourage gas guzzlers and raise money for the state’s roadways. “Our infrastructure is in serious jeopardy,” he says. Now that the price of gas is low, it’s the time to support a gas tax, because no one will want to raise money that way once gas prices rise next time.

A woman urges people to have “a really mature discussion” with friends and neighbors to remind them there are no free lunches, that taxes might have to go up to pay for things.

Atkins asks for a show of hands who will contact their congressman and senators urging action. All the hands go up. Don’t forget Facebook, some chime in — use social networking to urge friends to also contact their elected representatives. Rep. Ed Perlmutter — who represents most of those assembled here tonight — has a Facebook page and at least a few in the crowd are friends with the congressman on the site.

Some in the group want to get together to talk about Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) restrictions and how to get past them.

Suggestions go around for regular neighborhood potlucks, community gardens and other ways to bring people together to support activism. “Victory gardens!” says the carbon-negative homeowner, and just about everyone raises their hands in support.

Reilly stands to talk about the “Obama team” and its coordinated volunteer efforts at the Jeffco Action Center — a nonprofit social services agency facing increasing demands as the economy worsens. “Take action in your own community,” she says, passing around a sign-up sheet. This is the kind of constant activism skeptics wondered whether Obama’s organizing efforts would yield. It looks like this group has kept busy since the election.

Didn’t feel comfortable telling your story tonight? Atkins points to a phone number — 1-888-642-4264 — anyone can call to “make sure your stories are heard.” Reilly recalls stories already told tonight and says people need to e-mail them or call ’em in so the “facets” of the problem are clear.

“We really need to keep the pressure up,” a man says, because the “monied interests” want a different outcome than grassroots Obama supporters.

“Hold the administration responsible,” Reilly says. “Why did what happened to Daschle happen? Because there was a very vociferous voice of those progressive folks” who didn’t want someone enriched by the health care industry leading the reform effort. Some might point to other reasons Daschle’s nomination was derailed, but if he lost support from the Obama grassroots, that could have made it difficult to muscle the nomination past other objections.

Reilly closes reading a description of the stimulus plan from a retired economist who attended last night’s meeting. The stimulus package is a “painkiller” meant to help the broken economy get past the rough period so the “experts” assembled by Obama can fix the root causes of the problem. Obama has surrounded himself with the finest experts and they really know how to fix things, she assures the group, which breaks into applause. No one questions whether Obama’s “experts” — many of whom have been involved in finance and government oversight for years — really knows what they’re doing or whether the problems are still surmountable once Congress gets to have its say. There seems to be universal agreement that whatever stimulus package emerges from Congress will be worth supporting.

8:25 p.m. – “Keep the hope,” Reilly says, closing the meeting right on time. Everyone rises and immediately the room fills with conversation as people hand each other business cards and reach for the Jeffco Action Center sign-up sheet. The Higher Grounds staff can finally make it through the place and retrieve all the empty coffee mugs.

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Ernest Luning

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