Romey's Ramblings

Random musings of Jeromey Balderrama

January 14, 2019
by romeyinfc
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Reflections on attending the DQSH Protest

Last Saturday I attended the Clearview Library Drag Queen Story Hour as a counter-protester. This was my first time ever making a political sign and exercising my First Amendment rights in this way, and was quite an interesting experience.

The story hour itself was a registration-required event, and had filled up in the prior week. Apparently there was a 200 person waiting list (the largest room in the library had a max occupancy of 80). Outside were about 100 people in the designated “free speech zone” – an area 30 feet from the entrance to permit library patrons and story hour participants to arrive. Of the 100, it was about a 1/3 to 2/3 split between protesters against the event and supporters/counter-protesters.

Protesters seemed to fall into two large camps: people protesting on religious/moral grounds, with signs citing biblical verses and various religious and moral messages about corrupting children, as well as conservatives there that were “fighting the Left”. It was questionable as to whether some of the protesters were part of the Alt-Right, but some of the protesters seemed to be part of some larger conservative-based movement.

As for the supporters, there were also 2 segments: those drawing attention to the LGBTQ issues, counter-protesting the intolerance, as well as those generally supporting the library, freedom of speech, and general opposition to the protesters. I would count myself among the latter group, but my nuanced position seemed to confuse people on both sides at some point.

When I got there at 9:45, it wasn’t clear where people were standing, so I just stood on the corner and held up my signs. A lot of people who would later stand with the “against” protesters told me they liked my signs and were conversing with me. Apparently, some event supporters yelled obscenities at me as well, but I didn’t hear them. Then when the lines became apparent and I saw someone I knew, I went and stood next to her, at which point I had a bunch of supporters come up and apologize to me. A lot of the protesters suddenly had problems with my signs. As the morning progressed, a few supporters from the back came up to me and said they liked my signs.

The protests were mostly civil, both sides chanting back and forth. There were a few minor confrontations, but the police did an excellent job making their presence known without interfering or infringing the free speech rights of everyone. Truth be told, I think both sides had some chants and actions that were bad looks. Protests are a blunt instrument, and when you remove nuance, you give way to stereotypes to take hold. You could see the protesters demonize the supporters as religious heretics that were enabling child endangerment, while the supporters generalized the protesters as religious nuts and Alt-Right hate groups.

I didn’t take part in any of the chants and mainly stood silently unless someone directly yelled at me about my sign, at which point I would engage back with them. One of the protesters that engaged with me finally said he couldn’t disagree with my points, so that was kinda cool. At the end of the event when the supporters disbanded, I walked back to my car past the police chief who shook my hand, then by a few of the “Don’t tread on me” protesters. I told them to have a good day and they said: “you too”.

In the end, I think this was a worthwhile event for our community. Diverse programming was offered at the library unimpeded, and there was a lively conversation about culture, morals, and freedom outside of the library. I realize that people may feel uncomfortable about social disruption, but protests (and counter protests) and demonstration are integral parts of our American heritage. Just because conversations don’t happen in the public square doesn’t mean that they’re not taking place, these events just enable communities to bring these views into the light for all to see.

January 8, 2019
by Romey
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Keep Liberty In Our Library: An Open Letter to Mayor Melendez of Windsor

Dear Mayor Melendez,

I am writing to express my concern regarding efforts to restrict the freedom of your residents that wish to participate in programming at the Clearview Library. After watching events unfold over the last month, it appears that you and some local officials are attempting to ram through a particular point of view over the civil liberties of our neighbors.

Freedom and liberty are the bedrocks of our society. As elected officials, you have a duty to protect all viewpoints, even those that may make some feel uncomfortable. While I may personally have no interest in attending the Drag Queen Story Hour, I also recognize that the Clearview Library District is chartered with offering diverse programming to all parts of our community, and understand that not all library services and events must appeal to a majority of residents. With a Facebook Event RSVP that exceeds the capacity of the library’s large meeting room, a significant level of interest has been met to justify this programming. If no laws are being broken, and no hate is being advocated, then it is up to you as an elected official to protect its freedom and respect its right to seek programming and resources.

Suppose the library heeds your mayoral advice and cancels the event: should they then proceed to ban all programming that is mildly controversial? Shall we strip the library of all books and movies that may contain people dressed outside of their biological gender?  If a biological man walked into the library wearing a dress, should he be barred from entering? Do we hold the same standard against women wearing outfits that challenges the Town Board’s definition of “modesty”? Shall the library also ban resources that do not conform to the moral view of current town leadership? Should the library require approval from town and school boards before community groups/and or political clubs can gather?  Is there a similar policy in place for our Rec Center and parks? By publicly placing your elected thumb on the scale, you are creating a slippery slope on the path towards repression and government censorship, resulting in potentially costly legal challenges for our town.

As the father of two young girls, I can sympathize with parents that object on the grounds of avoiding exposure to their children.  However, the consequence of participating in a free society is that our kids will likely encounter people and ideas that are in conflict with their parents’ world-view.  Just last month I took my 5-year-old to an Eagles game and had to spend the first period explaining what “sucks” means and why the crowd was chanting those words.  The reality is that parents are challenged with turning those occurrences into teachable moments. We must also respect those parents that see this event as an opportunity to further their child’s exposure to the gender identity conversation. Of course, to parents that wish to limit exposure, there remains the obvious remedy: do not attend. It is not the role of government to shield the community from objectionable viewpoints, especially when suppressing the rights of others.

I challenge you and our leaders to do what’s right, rather than simply pleasing the population of those aligned with your ideals. Please do not abuse your stewardship by seizing the power of society and administering a top-down implementation of your morality, especially at the expense of law-abiding groups in our community. These actions are far more damaging to our communal fabric than any single library event.

Sincerely,

Jeromey Balderrama

December 17, 2018
by romeyinfc
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Replace the Budweiser Events Center??

It’s absolutely shameful that the Colorado Eagles ownership is emailing fans encouraging them to build them a new taxpayer-funded arena to replace the Budweiser Events Center, an arena that just turned FIFTEEN YEARS OLD last fall.

The total hypocrisy is that the owners openly campaigned against building a new library here in Windsor, funding oppo-diggers, emailing their country club friends and couldn’t even get their facts straight, all under the banner of keeping taxes low. Apparently, Eagles ownership doesn’t have a problem with higher taxes when it involves lining their pockets. The library can’t talk about building for future generations, but growth becomes an urgent need when we talk about minor league hockey.

I love that in the letter there’s a veiled threat of raising ticket prices as the only new revenue opportunity if they’re forced to upgrade the current arena. You don’t think they’re going to raise prices when they open a new building? You’re kidding yourself.

I hope Larimer County and Northern Colorado residents have enough wisdom to stop subsidizing rich owners in building stadiums and arenas. Make your opinion known and fill out the county’s community survey.

October 21, 2018
by Romey
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Be a custodian of liberty in our community. Vote yes on 6c.

As the son and husband of public educators, I can attest first-hand to the importance of schools, but lest we forget the critical development in the first years of a child’s life. These years are so important that many parents put their careers and livelihoods on hold to ensure their children have the best development opportunities. What other public institution, besides the public library, is as committed to resourcing parents and facilitating this crucial stage? After volunteering in my daughter’s kindergarten classroom, it becomes evident just how much of a head start reading gives our young children.

Libraries give people access to tools, materials, and resources that are not affordable or practical to individually own. When my parents were growing up, it was encyclopedias and reference materials. For me, it was PC’s and fast Internet. Today, it’s maker spaces with 3D printing, electronics tinkering, video and audio production. Do you remember when you unlocked a hidden talent that you never knew, discovering a passion changed the trajectory of your education, your career, your life? What resources were made available to you at the time?

We live in an age where we’ve never had more convenient access to the world’s information, or the ability to communicate across vast distances, yet somehow many feel more isolated. Like all of us, our youth are looking for ways to feel more connected, maintain community, with healthy in-person relationships. The library is also evolving to serve that need with designated gathering and collaboration spaces for groups of all ages to feel welcome.

Our community is blessed with a library that not only embraces this mission but excels at it. The Clearview staff demonstrates resourcefulness in offering rich, diverse, accessible programming for all ages – but they are at their limits. Originally built for a town of 10,000, the current facility struggles to keep up with a district that’s tripled in size.  Paramount programs like Girls Who Code and young children storytimes have to turn people away due to space constraints. Areas cannot be converted for these new needs without taking away meaningful space from another group or purpose. In its landlocked location, there’s no choice but to relocate to a larger space that is designed to serve our evolved needs.

Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “Nine-tenths of wisdom consists in being wise in time.” We need to demonstrate wisdom, accept the growth, and be bold in supporting our next generations. As a fiscal conservative that relishes a limited federal government, I am also a fierce localist that realizes we each must do our part to shape our community. These principles don’t need to be at odds. There is much debate about “need” vs. “want”, but we really need to talk about what our community deserves.  I’d like to think we’re a virtuous citizenry that takes care of each other, providing adequate facilities to serve our growing community,safeguarding for the future. A localist can be pro-schools, pro-safety, pro-water and pro-library, all at the same time. Being proactive and investing now ensures we maximize our return, rather than wait years and only get 80% while spending the same amount.

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” -James Madison.

Be a custodian of liberty in our community. Vote yes on 6c.

October 19, 2018
by romeyinfc
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An open letter to John Vazquez

Re: John Vazquez: To the taxpayers of Clearview Library District

Dear Mr. Vazquez,

I was disheartened in reading your opinion piece in the Greeley Tribune regarding Clearview Library District 6C, not because you oppose the measure – of course, every private citizen is entitled their stance – but because you base your assertions on premises that are not accurate.

You stated that this ballot initiative appears again unmodified but perhaps didn’t realize that the request is an 8% reduction from the previous year, reducing the mill request by 0.515 or 17%.  Years ago, in a cost-cutting measure, my company cut employee pay by 5% and I can personally attest to hard decisions that even a single digit reduction prompts on a budget. Like you, I support school districts, which is why I understand why Greeley District 6 tried 3 times before their Mill Levy increased. The need persists, despite ignoring warning signs.

The new location is more central to residents of Severance and West Greeley (who are also part of the Windsor RE-4 school district), on a roadway more convenient for all residents. I was also surprised that as the former mayor, you are not aware of the Windsor Lake Trail that already has an exit to the proposed library site. This trail unlocks safe access for residents north of Main Street while adding connections for those south of Main Street through stop lights and crosswalks. My 5-year-old just rode to the new proposed site from the current library last weekend, which can be viewed at http://bit.ly/CLDCycling

The proposed temporary Mill Levy in 6C (6.131) is still 1.5 mills lower than the Fire District mill and bond, still lower than what residents pay for Aims Community College. These services, each with their own missions are all equally important, preserving and enhancing the quality of life in our town. The increased amount will drop 75% after the building is paid off, to a point that’s three mills below the current Fire District.

Your assertion that 5% of community library use is simply not true. 69% of Windsor residents have a library card, and in 2017, the library logged over 247,000 visits into the building using a door-counter sensor. I’d invite you and all residents to view a timelapse of a video I took of the library entrance just last Wednesday: http://bit.ly/CLDTimeLapse

As for what services will be offered that aren’t offered now? Visit the Clearview Library website and see that the dedicated maker space, dedicated children and teen sections that isolate noise from the rest of the library, a computer lab, and meeting rooms for groups of all sizes are all part of the new location that aren’t available at the 3rd Street location.

I know this is a big decision for all of our residents, and respect that we all may not arrive at the same conclusion, but as a former public official, I’m sure you can appreciate the need for accurate information when basing important decisions.

Your neighbor,

Jeromey Balderrama