Since when are personal attacks on the character of citizens of this community by elected public servants acceptable? Don’t they remember that they work for us, and that they need to keep their yaps shut when it comes to insulting voters or questioning their right to petition the government?
Colorado Springs City Councilman Tom Gallagher wrote a guest opinion for the Gazette on September 4th. In it, Gallagher complains that Mr. Bruce’s objections to last-minute ballot title language on the initiative to do away with city enterprises are “trivial at best.” Fair enough, but Gallagher goes far beyond “set[ting] the record straight,” and flows straight into an utterly unacceptable personal attack on Mr. Bruce that has nothing whatever to do with the ballot title issue. Such deliberate insult from a public official cannot be left unremarked upon, and ought not be tolerated in a public servant under any circumstances.
If, as Gallagher claims, the change was indeed “trivial at best,” this begs the question of why the City Council would seek to amend it at the last minute? It’s pretty obvious that the City Council is opposed to the initiative, so what motivation could the Council have to amend the ballot title unless that amendment is somehow detrimental to getting it passed?
According to Bruce, who is now seeking a court order to compel the city to use the language of the petition, “They want to ask a Yes/No question without Yes/No boxes, but For/Against the Initiated Ordinance answer boxes instead. You can’t ask Yes/No and then offer For/Against choices; the charter says the petition wording is the only lawful wording. Their goal is to CONFUSE voters, as they did last year. Dozens of people told me they voted the wrong way.”
Mr. Bruce had every right to object to tampering with the ballot title language, and his rationale in this case appears to be sound. The court will end up answering the question, and the taxpayers will pay more unnecessary legal fees incurred by the Council trying to play political gamesmanship rather than simply honestly inquiring of and being obedient to the will of the people. This sort of jiggery-pokey is a commonplace tactic by bureaucrats and politicians who despise the limitations of TABOR, and don’t like the petition process any better.
But that’s not really at all relevant to Councilman Gallagher’s diatribe in the Gazette. What is relevant is that his letter comprises little more than a petulant, childish personal attack on Mr. Bruce that uses the ballot title issue as an excuse to berate the Council’s favorite enemy and whipping-boy. It’s reprehensible smear tactics and nothing more.
Councilman Gallagher is free to complain about Mr. Bruce’s “cheap theatrics” if he likes, but the bulk of his letter is composed of red herrings, straw man arguments and the logical fallacy of Ad Hominem Tu Quoque. For those unfamiliar with this logical fallacy, let me explain: Ad Hominem Tu Quoque occurs when, as in this case, Mr. Gallagher says, “While Mr. Bruce was an El Paso County Commissioner and a member of the State House of Representatives he made no substantive effort to control county or state spending, reduce county or state taxation, or impose fiscal constraints on county or state government even though he was in a position to do so. Instead Mr. Bruce chose to engage in concerted and repeated efforts to reduce the revenue available to the city of Colorado Springs.”
The fallacy occurs when Gallagher concludes that Bruce’s actions as a County Commissioner and State Representative are inconsistent with his attempts to “reduce the revenue available to the City of Colorado Springs” as a private citizen, and that therefore his argument for forcing the city to abide by both the City and State TABOR laws by petitioning to repeal the City’s enterprise system is “hypocrisy.” But it’s not hypocrisy on Bruce’s part, it’s fallacious and manipulative illogic from Gallagher.
The fact that Bruce is or is not consistent as a private citizen with his past actions as an elected representative neither impeaches Bruce’s claims that the city has exceeded its authority by creating “enterprises” as a way to evade the restrictions of TABOR, nor does it make him a hypocrite for petitioning to eliminate the City enterprises now. For one thing, as Councilman Gallagher should know, one’s position as an elected representative imposes upon one a fiduciary and moral duty to represent the citizens of the district, not to pursue personal agendas. Therefore, it would have been improper for Mr. Bruce to focus solely on tax reduction efforts while in office because his duty to the taxpayers happens to include considering the financial needs of the district and how to obtain those funds necessary to serve the best interests of the People whom he represented. Evidently Representative Bruce recognized this duty and, being an honorable man, was obedient to it. That’s hardly cause for calumny from Gallagher.
But as a private citizen, Mr. Bruce is under no such moral or fiduciary constraint and is perfectly entitled to follow his heart and his reason in lawfully petitioning his government for redress of grievances, as is explicitly provided for and protected by the First Amendment and the City Charter. Public servants on the City Council may not like Mr. Bruce’s agenda of throttling government by closing the purse strings to government excess and requiring bureaucrats and elected public servants to ask the permission of the people before imposing new taxes and fees upon them, but that is of little interest and to be expected from bureaucrats. That’s why TABOR exists in the first place. Elected representatives have proven that they cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of the public when it comes to taxation, so the public has removed that authority from them and subjected them to public oversight and permission, as is the public’s right.
Councilman Gallagher continues his vicious personal attack in saying, “Mr. Bruce chooses to portray himself as the self proclaimed advocate for and defender of the people’s right to vote. Mr. Bruce’s actions, however, are all about obstructing the people’s right to vote on issues he finds personally objectionable (i.e. revising TABOR). Mr. Bruce has repeatedly demonstrated that his respect for the will of the people extends only to those decisions that agree with his position. (i.e. His latest petitioned initiated ordinance is simply a rewrite of his previous failed legislative efforts.)”
What’s important to remember, and what Councilman Gallagher has evidently forgotten in his anger at being subordinated to the will of the People is that this isn’t just Douglas Bruce’s initiative. In fact it’s not his at all, it’s an initiative undertaken in accordance with the City Charter in which at least 20 percent of the number of people who voted in the last mayoral election decided that Douglas Bruce has the right idea. The City Council, and particularly Councilman Gallagher commonly forget this salient fact whenever they choose to pillory Mr. Bruce for his activism. And in so doing, they grossly disrespect and arrogantly dismiss the rights and opinions of the tens of thousands of citizens who signed the petitions and exercised their right to petition the government as well. Let’s hope the voters don’t forget Gallagher’s or the Council’s arrogance come election time.
Gallagher goes on to falsely claim, “The Webster’s Dictionary defines this type of behavior as hypocrisy and the practitioner of such behavior as a hypocrite.” Actually, Councilman Gallagher, Webster’s does nothing of the kind. Your failure to acknowledge the different relative positions of an elected representative, who is a servant of the public, and a private citizen, who is the master of the elected representative, indicates a degree of hypocrisy, and more seriously, an unacceptable degree of arrogance in a public servant that should be taken into account at the next election by the People.
And this statement by Councilman Gallagher is the crowning hypocrisy: “I have always encouraged, advocated for, and defended the people’s right to petition their government and their right to vote. I have never deliberately obstructed the established public processes. I have respected and complied with the decisions made of the electors of the city.”
Except, it seems when Douglas Bruce is the author and defender of the petition, in which case personal attacks and disrespect for the tens of thousands of voting citizens of Colorado Springs and their rights are the order of the day.
Now THAT is the definition of “hypocrisy,” Councilman.
© 2009 Altnews