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May 06, 2009 6:08 pm

So Much For Southern Colorado, McLobbyist

  • by: Colorado Pols

As the Pueblo Chieftain reports:

Former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis jumped into the fight over expanding the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site this week, sending a letter to Gov. Bill Ritter urging him to veto legislation that would stop the Army from buying any Colorado State Board land around the 238,000-acre training range.

McInnis, a Republican who represented the 3rd Congressional District for 12 years, has resurfaced in recent weeks as a likely GOP candidate for governor.

The legislation in question, HB1317, was sponsored by state Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, and state Sen. Ken Kester, R-Las Animas, and it orders the Colorado State Land Board not to sell any of its property around Pinon Canyon to the Army. Those small parcels amount to about 20 percent of the additional 100,000 acres the Army wants to buy in Las Animas County.

Pinon Canyon is in the 3rd District and the current congressman, Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., continues to oppose the expansion. But not McInnis…

We’re stunned at this move by McInnis. The Army’s proposed expansion of the Pinon Canyon training site is one of the most unpopular ideas to hit south of the Arkansas River in…well, we don’t even know. A really long time. Not even ousted Rep. Marilyn Musgrave was so foolish as to side with the Army against the tightly organized ranchers and other stakeholders down there. We assume McInnis’ statement was all about placating Fort Carson-area Republicans (basically the only people in the state who support the Army’s expansion plans)–useful in a primary, but he’s not in such risk with the conservatives that he needed to do this for general election positioning.

And that’s the thing–for the general election, taking this position is absolutely disastrous for McInnis. He’s also throwing away a tremendous opportunity for shoring up Republican prospects in southern Colorado. It’s no secret that many of those most disaffected by Governor Bill Ritter’s appointments for Senator and Secretary of State are in this region of the state.

Bottom line? Way to go, Scooter–he just flushed a golden opportunity down the toilet faster than you can say “eminent domain.”


25 thoughts on “So Much For Southern Colorado, McLobbyist

  1. He voted for the legislation, but missed a golden arches opportunity to co-sponsor it.

    Will Penry quickly turn around and urge the governor to sign the legislation?  

    1. I didn’t follow the link. The Chieftain called Penry for comment:

      Penry voted for HB1317, as did other Republicans.

      “I don’t think politicizing the property rights or these ranchers is appropriate or responsible,” Penry said in a statement Tuesday. “I wouldn’t let that happen on the Western Slope and Senator Kester’s constituents deserve no less.”

  2. “It will set back the negotiations and I think real progress was being made. The situation will work itself out in time.”

    What “real progress being made”, isn’t that the opposition? “Setting back negotiations”? Negotiations, there are none.  

  3. .

    My impression: folks who allege the sinister forces are secretly planning to use Eminent Domain know better.  They want to be left alone, and I think that is their right.

    But they don’t want their neighbors to be able sell, and so they are doing anything they can to taint any dealings with the Army.  

    I know the Army.  It has lots of good people, but it also has some real snakes.  

    But this isn’t about the Army.  Its about intimidating willing sellers.

    If the Army was willing to pay a fair price, I’d guess that there are enough potential willing sellers to get this done.  

    The legislation in question: ordering the Land Board to not sell is contrary to the Land Board’s mission.  It is part of a conspitracy to intimidate potential willing sellers.

    I don’t know if McGiniss has that figured out, but preventing expansion of PCMS will doom Fort Carson.  The Army may not close it completely, but they will move the BCT’s elsewhere.


    1. If there existed real willing sellers, they’d be closing on deals with the Army.

      This move is unScooter-like. He’s not going to get the crazy right vote in the Springs in a primary anyway, but he’d get them in a general against any Democrat.

      It’s weird and I don’t get it.

      1. .

        Before any potentially willing sellers will close on any deals,

        the Army first has to offer fair prices.  

        I have absolutely no inside information on this,

        but I understand the mindset of Army bureaucrats.  They think that these landowners ought to give up their land, their source of income, the tether to their community and heritage and history, in exchange for peanuts,

        because that would be the patriotic thing to do.

        I’m making this up, but if a fair price would be in the range of $10,000 per acre, then I’m guessing the Army is currently offering in the range of $1,000 – 1,500.  

        By “fair price,” I mean the price that both a willing seller and a motivated buyer would agree to.  

        If you’re thinking, well, that’s an awful high price to pay for desert scrub, then I guess there’s a big gap between what you and I think is a fair price.  If the Army really needs this land, as they claim, then that is a factor in determining what would be a fair price.  Desperate need of that property should properly affect its value.  

        If we can pay a hedge fund manager who ripped off a bank $1 Billion to play nice,

        why can’t we pay a rancher $25 Million for a piece of property worth $25 Million ?


        1. The feds have to pay a “just compensation” which has been defined for over 200 years as what a willing buyer with a willing seller would agree to pay.  The courts have never, never, taken into account the “sentimental” value of land.  If they did, then all of the sudden everyone would have a very sentimental attachment to their land.  As for your estimates of value, any support at all for the idea that “desert scrub” which is also in the middle of nowhere might be worth that?  I would guess not, because it isn’t.  As for giving up their livelihood, they don’t have to do any such thing.  As long as they get “just compensation”  they will be able to find a willing seller of other land and move their operations.  Oh, by the way, the owner also gets damages for the costs to move his business.

          Condemnation is in the U.S. and Colorado Constitutions in case you didn’t know.  It is allowed for a “public purpose.”  There is a very good reason for it.  If you didn’t have it, whatever freeway you drive on to work wouldn’t exist, because the state couldn’t get the land.  Frankly, if you don’t think Army training is important, then you and I just disagree.

          1. .

            I’m reading along, nodding in agreement, and then wham! you are talking about sentimental value.  

            I don’t mean that the Army (meaning the taxpayer) should pay for sentimental value, but if we have to turn the recalcitrant landowner into someone who is willing to sell, we have to pay enough for him to agree to sell.  Don’t we ?

            As for sentiment, if the sales agreement permitted them to return periodically, or to continue to use it for certain restricted purposes, or paid them to steward the piece they sell, that obstacle can be overcome.  In some cases.  

            As I understand it, there is no single piece that is essential.  The Army needs a lot more land, but as long as its within a certain radius of Model, it will do.  

            The really critical piece is having the right to move between the multiple isolated parcels, either on public roads or other roads, and by helicopter.

            I don’t know what an independent appraiser would say that land is worth, but it isn’t actually desert scrub.  It supports low density grazing.  

            I think the owners are seeking about $10K per acre, but I have no way of knowing, since their association insists they won’t sell at any price.  


            From personal experience I know how important Army training is.  I served as a principal staff officer under a totally incompetent battalion commander.  

            If you know the Jodie call about Pharaoh losing an entire battalion, this guy fit that to a “T.”

            He got promoted and was in command when the brigade went to Gulf War I, and he ended up retiring with 3 stars.  How ?  He was a General’s Aide for most of his career, and his patron looked out for him.  That’s really how it works at the very top echelons of our military.  

            That war consisted mostly of the Air Force mercilessly bombing Iraqi units that were running away.  The main engagement during the 4 days of ground operations consisted of 2 US units shooting each other.  Most US casualties in that war were incurred when one lucky shot with a SCUD hit a hangar full of people.  

            If that brigade had instead been sent up against a Soviet Motorized Rifle Regiment, with an enemy that was shooting back, I’m confident that the XO would have relieved that monkey and taken over.  He had never gone through the training, or the troop assignments, needed to learn infantry capabilities, tactics and doctrine.  


            1. .

              large training exercises aren’t needed to train front-line troops.

              The big exercises are to train the battalion commanders and staffs.  

              Any individual or small unit training that happens during the Bold Eagles and REFORGERs is gravy.


          2. provide a system of checks and balances, including an engaged Congressional delegation, and a state enabled and encouraged to pursue its interests.  

            I don’t just trust the Army to make the best choice for what is best for Colorado, or not–like any government funded bureaucracy–to overstate their needs.  I think there needs to be oversight and sometimes rebuke if overreaching.

            How are the citizens not within their reasonable rights to petition their governments for redress of grievance?

  4. “Why does Josh Penry hate El Paso County?” (In the spirit of all the signs along I-25 asking the same about Ritter.)

    Frankly, Pols has this absolutely wrong as does Penry.  The expansion of Pinon Canyon would create many high income jobs and provide new opportunities during tough economic times.  The eminent domain concerns have been grossly over exagerated by a handful of environmentalists and special interests who have missled some of the ranching community into believing this nonsense.

    Penry has stepped in it with the business community and with countless others whose primary concern is the creation of jobs. All McInnis did was ask for a compromise, which is what should have happened had there been any real leadership on the issue in the first place.  Penry is up to his neck in this now and it will be interesting to see how he tries deny this when confronted in El Paso County.

    The basic facts are that we are involved in a war and a major economic crisis.  The State has an opportunity to work out a solution with both sides of the issue to help the Army and create jobs and growth.  But instead, Ritter and Penry have done everything they can to stop these opportunities.

    Bottom line…way to go Penry.  Good luck trying to explain this to the business community and the average voter who is looking for economic growth and jobs.  Penry Fail.

    1. 1. Please reconcile the Army’s dreamed expansion–usurping the rights of presumably free individuals and unwilling private property owners–with the beloved Founding Fathers (TM) vision for this nation, Constitutionalist.

      2. Are you calling ranchers stupid?

      The eminent domain concerns have been grossly over exagerated [sic] by a handful of environmentalists and special interests who have missled [sic] some of the ranching community into believing this nonsense.

      1. Constitutionalist needs to get his/her facts straight.  The almost 100% opposition to Pinon Canyon in the Arkansas Valley is NOT the result of some environmentalists swooping in and stirring up trouble.  The impetus for this public anger has always been from local residents and ranchers.  Indeed, it is the environmentalists who have come to this party late in the game.  

        Scott McInnis just became irrelevant.  

    2. Am I wrong in my recollection?

      If I’m correct, then how does expansion at Pinon Canyon have anything to do with fighting insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan? Or is Pinon Canyon for Predator training?

      The army has lots of training grounds in the Mojave, and that terrain looks a lot more like SW Asia than anything in CO.

      As for the jobs, well, call me skeptical, but it seems to me that when people come around promising jobs, they’re usually selling snake oil. So, if you have a link to a study that shows what the permanent job growth would be, please share.  

      1. .

        No, the Army doesn’t want the added land for tank training.  

        That is what PCMS was originally built for, before the Berlin Wall came down.  They now want to practice small, independent (dismounted/HMMWV/MRAP-based) operations flung across a huge expanse, a la Afghanistan.  The existing installation is too small for that.

        They want to train units to be able to operate even though they are 50 miles from the orderly room, and 100 miles from battalion TOC.  

        If the Army got the additional land,

        training there would integrate Predators and Counter-IED tactics, role-players at checkpoints and simulated villages, satellite communications and all kinds of aircraft support.  

        The Army has a huge National Training Center in the Mojave.  It is used to capacity.  Check out… where you can often find units headed to NTC scrambling to line up insulated tents, generators, light sets or Environmental Control Units (a/c) for their rotation in the next couple of weeks.  

        While it is huge, it can only accommodate one battalion at a time.  Units rotate through every 2 weeks, 20-25 battalions per year.  There are about 33 BCT’s and about 140 battalions that need to rotate through there, including Army Reserve and National Guard.  Most soldiers would complete an enlistment without ever going there.  

        The Fort Irwin NTC was originally built to train Brigades with lots of tanks for fighting the Soviet enemy.  Even with 3, 4 or 5 battalions there at a time, it was big enough.  Then the nature of war went and changed.

        The promises of jobs are questionable, at best.  Lots of high-paying jobs were promised when PCMS was first opened 20+ years ago.  Well, there were just a few high-paying jobs created, and they all went to folks assigned to Fort Carson, who never moved to the local area, but commuted from Colorado Springs.  Skepticism is justified.  


        1. It is highly doubtful that an expansion of PCMS would create many jobs, and may in fact be a net loss of jobs if you consider the number of people and businesses being moved out of the area.

          It would eliminate some protected nesting grounds for threatened and endangered birds as well as destroy some archeological sites.  It would encompass at least one river which is governed by interstate water compacts.

          In all, it’s a reasonably Bad Idea.

        2. The next time the Defense Dep. realigns its military bases (Remember BRAC), TX, WY, KS, OK, will all be pointing at CO saying look at them, they had the chance to expand Fort Carson and they refused…they must not want the military there.  We will gladly take all you can send us, in fact we will make room for all of Fort Carson’s troops.

          This will amount to a growth decline in the community, loss of tax revenue, and the loss of the state’s second largest employer.  Seems like a huge loss to me.

          1. of the well known ‘slippery slope’ fallacy.  For all you students of informal logic, you might make a note of it for future reference.

  5. Next he’ll start supporting AWDI in the San Luis Valley and the big ditch from the Arkansas river to Aurora.

    Who is McInnis listening to on this or did he just go freelancing.  This is just cheap political grandstanding by McInnis and it doesn’t help resolve the issue.

    1. McInnis is listening to the same narcissistic pricks that ensured Doug Lamborn’s re-election: Bentley Rayburn and Mike Hesse.  

      What this flap really illustrates is that McInnis doesn’t have any core principles.  Private property?  Doesn’t matter if it can help me peel off some primary voters in el paso cnty.

      I suspect that this whole Pinon Canyon issue and his alleged campaign for governor is somehow wrapped up in a contract McInnis has with someone at Hogan and Hartson.  He’s infamous for floating his name just to make him seem relevant to the boys at HH and their clients.  

      Pretty smart marketing.  

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