Lamborn Forum Attracts Standing-Room-Only Crowd

Residents seek opening up public lands

Folk singer Woody Guthrie would have been cringing in his grave.

Last week, Guthrie’s familiar “This Land is Your Land” signature song was one of the central messages of a town forum sponsored by Congressman Doug Lamborn in Woodland Park only with one big change: A strikingly more GOP twist from the social themes once emphasized by the famous protest singer.

A huge standing-room crowd last Thursday displayed their stern opposition to any government controls regarding public lands, including restrictions on riding ATVs, drilling, imposing tougher environmental standards and even offering incentives for alternative energy.

“Public lands belong to the people,” said Lamborn, a phrase that generated strong applause from a strong pro-Republican and Tea Party crowd, and even drew unique comparisions to Guthrie’s famous song.

Lamborn was responding to a legislative grass-roots campaign launched by a group of Teller residents who support the rights of kids to ride ATVs and dirt bikes along forest service trails and other federal-designated public lands. Currently, federal health restrictions, dealing with motorcycle lead parts, prohibit kids from riding many ATVs in the forest.

A group of Teller residents, who displayed a huge cardboard collage in the back of the WP council chambers and featured signs with such slogans, “Let Kids Buy Motorcycle Parts,” captured Lamborn’s attention. They were seeking Lamborn’s support for a bill that would provide an exemption to this restriction.”We want our kids to be able to ride ATVs with us,” said Woodland Park resident Dave Bradley. “The public lands are for the people to enjoy,” added Al Bunge, also of Woodland Park, who disagrees with environmental mandates impacting these types of recreational outings for families.

However, the group didn’t have to do much arm-twisting with Lamborn, who expressed opposition to designating more lands for wilderness areas and increasing environmental restrictions. He agreed to fully endorse any legislation that would open the trails up more to younger riders and fully endorsed the group’s campaign.

As he has in past town hall meetings, the Fifth Congressional District representative relayed a strong: “get the government off our back” philosophy.

Based on last week’s forum, Lamborn won’t be receiving any awards from former Vice-President Al Gore in the near future.

When it came to rules regarding global warming and provisions for alternative energy, Lamborn made it clear he opposes such mandates.

More importantly, Lamborn said he is against taking steps to “act immediately” regarding the global warming threat, when the science is iffy at best. “Let’s talk about taking responsible actions that allow us to be prosperous,” said Lamborn.

He stressed that the traditional hydro-carbon and coal energies are still much more reliable and cost-effective as a heating source than alternative sources. “It will add to the cost of energy.We can’t make all these assumptions,” said Lamborn, when discussing the movement towards renewables, such as wind, solar and woody biomass.

Likewise, the congressman believes that the doors should be opened more for oil drilling in Colorado. He classified the current regulations as way too restrictive and virtually impossible for any company to receive a permit. Plus, he supports oil exploration in Alaska and the Gulf region, despite the problems that occurred last year near Florida.

No more big spending

However, Lamborn’s biggest pet peeve is the state of federal spending.
“We are spending $3 million a minute. We just can’t do that anymore,” said Lamborn. “We don’t want to end up like Greece.”

The congressman spent a good portion of his forum touting his legislative plans to cut federal spending. He said a recent bill has advanced that would cut spending to 2008 levels.

Lamborn’s anti-government and red tape views made him a big hit with the audience. If anything, they wanted to see Lamborn take an even more aggressive stand against government regulations and spending. Plus, several residents urged congressman to do more to try to secure the borders and to crack down on the problems of illegal immigration. Also, the subject of onerous screening and security techniques at national airports commanded much attention.

Lamborn admitted that the policies in handling air travelers in Israel, where profiling is used, are quite effective.

Although facing a very friendly crowd, a few forum attendees took issues with his pro-Republican stands.
In one of the few confrontational moments at last week’s forum, Sam Masias of Colorado Solar Solutions, and a member of the Economic Development Council in Colorado Springs, asked Lamborn about his response to tens of thousands of unemployed people in the region. More specifically, he wanted to know what actions the congressman planned to take to attract more businesses to the area.

Lamborn got somewhat defensive and stated that he didn’t believe in backing “winners or losers” regarding government subsidies. “I have a problem with government-driven industrial policies,” said Lamborn.

According to Lamborn, the best action the government could take for business is to get out of the way and eliminate onerous regulations. Still, Masias continued to grill Lamborn about specific plans to bring more industry into the Pikes Peak region. “I think you are wrong,” countered Lamborn, who received loud cheers backing his stand. He said any government-generated policies or subsidies that result in more jobs won’t work in the long-run.

In addition, one of Lamborn’s former opponents in the last election, Brian Scott, repeated a familiar political compliant against the congressman. What is your hang-up with debates? Since getting elected as a congressman more than six years ago, Lamborn has taken some heat for refusing to conduct debates with his opponents at both the primary and general election stage.

Lamborn responded to Scott that he didn’t see much interest in having a debate during the last November election.

Lamborn, who serves on the prestigious Armed Services Committee, recently started his fourth term as a member of Congress. But this is the first time he has served in Congress when the Republican Party has a clear-cut majority.