City, State Programs Available to Help Lower Utility Bills

By: Kevin Cross

Last October, the City of Fort Collins put a new program in place designed to reduce the utility bills of low-income households.  This initiative – the Income Qualified Assistance Program (IQAP) – comes at a particularly good time, given the skyrocketing cost of housing in Northern Colorado and the failure of wages to keep up with that and other costs of living.

The City estimates that the IQAP can reduce the average bill for electric, water, and wastewater services by $32 per month, or $387 per year.  The program is available to households earning up to 165% of the Federal Poverty Level – about $27,000 per year for a couple, or $41,000 per year for a family of four.

Together with the State of Colorado’s “Low-Income Energy Assistance Program” (LEAP) and previously existing Fort Collins Utilities programs, the average utility bill can be lowered by a very significant $87 per month, or $1,044 per year.  This represents annual savings of nearly half of the average total.

An added benefit of these programs is that they include assistance from the City and the State to lower energy use, not just energy costs.  Therefore, they will help our community reduce its impact on the environment and achieve its Climate Action Plan goals, along with making life more affordable for relatively low-income residents.

The only problem with the IQAP and LEAP is that qualified people are not automatically enrolled – they must apply for the benefits by April 30th.  After that, applications won’t be accepted again until November 1st.  If you believe you might qualify, visit this webpage to learn more and to apply for LEAP and the IQAP: https://www.fcgov.com/utilities/iqap.  If you do qualify, you’ll be glad you made the effort!

Kevin Cross is the convener of the Fort Collins Sustainability Group (FCSG, http://fcsg.fccan.org), which is an affiliate of the Fort Collins Community Action Network.  The FCSG successfully advocated for passage of the IQAP in the spring of 2018, based on its social and environmental benefits.

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Fighting for Food Justice in Fort Collins

Note: On Sunday, February 10th the Fort Collins Homeless Coalition (FCHC) organized a rally in solidarity with Food Not Bombs and in support of the right to share food in our parks. FCHC is continuing to collaborate on this effort to secure the right of people in our community to share food (without facing threats of tickets, fines/fees, harassment, or unfair restrictions). Having such a great demonstration of support makes a big difference- thanks to everyone who showed up and made it a joyful act of resistance. We’ll continue updating here and sign up to receive FCCAN’s Action Bulletin for more opportunities to get involved. And come show your support at Food Not Bomb’s Zine Release Party this Friday!


By: Food Not Bombs, FoCo

We have been holding community picnics for about two years now, under the name of Food Not Bombs. We believe that nutritious food is a human right, not a privilege. We believe that it is a moral failure of all of us that there are members of our community who go hungry– especially in this day and age when a staggering proportion of cultivated food is destined for landfills. We have been gathering every week at the library park to share food and company with those who are hungry. It is a nourishing time for both body and soul, as the community comes together and stand with each other in defiance to the system that manufactures and perpetuates poverty. We chat, listen, sing, dance, and of course, eat. These picnics that brought us closer to the houseless community within the city and gave us opportunities to listen to the houseless folks and their struggle against the city authorities that want to criminalize their existence.

Unfortunately, our picnics did not always draw positive reactions from the folks in the neighborhood. Some neighbors have come up to the meal table and accused us of attracting houseless folks to the park and hence creating problems that they always seem to (wrongly) conflate with houselessness itself. We were disheartened by these interactions, but it was not until the threats escalated that we truly felt the need to speak up and stand our ground.

Two weeks ago, we were notified by the library security that someone had called police on our meal service. The following week, the police shut down our community picnic. The police stated they had received a call about a dog off leash, but then refused to leave and threatened to give us citations until the picnic was taken down entirely. We were told that we will receive citations if we share another picnic without getting a permit. We were forced to pack up and leave without having served all our food.

It is worth noting that the permitting process in “Fort Collins” is prohibitively expensive, and the city’s rules about what kind of events require permits are extremely vague. The rules, as they stand currently, call any use of the park that happens more than “once a week/month” an event which requires a permit. The park also cites an increased load on the public infrastructure as a reason for them to strictly restrict the use of their parks but 1) most, if not all, folks whom we serve are already present at the library at the time/day and 2) even if every single person we served is attracted to the park solely because of our meals, the degree to which it impacts the overall library attendance is marginal at best given the size of the picnic. Therefore, it is evident to us that the city is selectively applying these intentionally vague rules to further marginalize the poor and houseless folks within our community. One must wonder what kind of treatment we would have gotten if everyone showing up to the picnic was a housed, wealthy, middle-class person.

Interestingly, this fight is not unique to “Fort Collins” – the Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs has experienced almost identical struggle a few years ago that resulted in prolonged legal fight. They too argued that the city ordinance was unjustly violent against the voice of the people. Eventually, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that banning such gathering is against the First Amendment of the “US” Constitution, allowing Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs to continue their community picnics. Since then, this case has been used to defend numerous Food Not Bombs friends around the country.

“Fort Collins” as a community has time and time again attempted to further oppress the poor and houseless folks. During the Mennonite Church’s fight to host a few lockers for the houseless folks, we have all witnessed the strong reactionary opposition from some people in the neighborhood that accused the houseless folks of drug use, “disorderly conduct”, and so-called crimes. City now has imposed unrealistic amendments to the operation of the lockers, rendering the program effectively impossible. Similarly, the Sit-Lie Ban was an inhumane, targeted assault on the houseless folks that aimed to brush under the rug the failure of our economic system to meet basic human needs. The city has always chosen to cover up their own shortcomings with a suffocating blanket of apathy to uphold the manicured fantasy that is the downtown “Fort Collins”.

We prefer not to have to appeal to the authority just to help our neighbors, whether that authority be the city council or the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. We dream of a world where helping each other is a right and a responsibility, not an illegal action. However, Food Not Bombs, as well as our compassionate friends are ready to stand our ground. If the city tries to push us out to the fringes, we will continue to fight for our rights and for the well-being of our community.

In Solidarity, Food Not Bombs “FoCo”

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Questioning Capitalism is Patriotic

This post was inspired b a panel  discussion of
activists put together by Colorado State University Journalism Instructor Elissa Tivona in January 2019 and the recent closing of the Coloradoan’s Opinion Section.

By: Paul Gessler

The founders of our nation held opposing voices sacred by investing heavily in a free press to insure that freedom would prevail over any tyranny.

Advocating our future leaders to not question capitalism is the ultimate act of cowardice and denial.  Proof that Bob Schaefer’s column in the Coloradoan was as inappropriate as a hedge fund owning a newspaper.

If capitalism is so sweet and omniscient, we would have Warren Buffet, Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein as President and not Donald Trump.  We would have weaned our nation and probably the world off of fossil fuels back in the 20th century.  We would have recognized that Vietnam was a war that didn’t need to be waged.  The Vietnamese had already won independence from the French in 1954. If capitalism and free markets are so wonderful, We would have had no continuation of a cold war.  Russia would be well on its way to being our ally and partner in space exploration; no Iraq war; no war on terror because they would all be recognized as the illegal wars they were. Capitalism had to help itself build a rogue military force in the deceptive way it wages war. Un-regulated capitalism in the form of corporate control is a failed business plan.

We can be as easily united as we are presently divided. Everyone can be on equal footing.  It’s up to leaders to get us together and start talking and have that conversation be the real news.  

Would it not be poetic justice for the Coloradoan to open up it’s meeting room for all those with opinions so we can actually hash them out and probably find a path forward?  Could not the City use the monies it gets from the Pentagon to promote its illegal wars to pay for the rental space at the Coloradoan room?

The first question comes from our Choice City Manager:  Why can’t we be nice to each other?

I have my opinion.  Who takes the first step?

Paul is a local Fort Collins activist involved with Partners For Peace, Veterans For Peace,Trees, Water and People.  Native American Reconciliation, FCCAN, and Environmental Sustainability.

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Addressing the Gentrification of Jefferson Park

People pay the price of gentrification

This was originally published in the Coloradoan’s Newspaper here.

By: Shirley Coenen, Fort Collins

Fort Collins Homeless Coalition protesting outside of City Council

recent article (Oct. 5) featured the owners of several restaurants in Old Town. In its rush to laud local business owners, the Coloradoan failed to address the very real consequences that gentrification is having on marginalized people in this community.

There is an apparent lack of historical and political understanding in Fort Collins of how space is divided up not only by private businesses, but also by laws enforced through the coercive power of the state.

Who may use certain spaces and what activities are allowed in them is heavily regulated and policed. Much of our legal system creates and protects the boundaries and value of private property: This includes regulating the use of public spaces in the interest of private profit.

Prior to the privatization and commodification of the land where Union Restaurant now stands, Jefferson Park was a public space that sometimes served as a place to rest, eat and simply exist for people who have been forced out of other spaces.

While some in Fort Collins may celebrate having a new venue to eat lunch, others are left with even fewer safe places to be. The building of Union pushed people farther into the margins, without contributing to real solutions.

Our community should be honest about the reality of development decisions that push vulnerable people out of public spaces. These exclusionary practices do lasting damage to individuals and our community.

The Fort Collins Homeless Coalition works with people in poverty and people experiencing homelessness in our community to build grassroots power, decriminalize homelessness and to organize together to address the disparities perpetuated by capitalism and other systems of oppression. Are you interested in working with us? Find ways to get involved!

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Support Us to Keep Families Together

FCCAN supporters and comrades,

This country is tearing our families apart. 

We’re talking about the inhumane immigration policy that was dominating headlines these past few months. While it may seem like old news- another 13,000 children traveling alone- many on their way to be reunited with family- are still in federal custody. Fuerza Latina, founded by and for immigrants in Fort Collins is doing the work to build a power base for those rendered invisible and vulnerable by our racist immigration policies.

But at FCCAN we are also talking about the institutional forces of oppression which continually tear families apart. The law which prioritizes capitalist greed over housing rights, protecting those in power and dismissing housing as a human right. The Fort Collins Homeless Coalition is doing the work to ensure that families are not torn apart when they can no longer share a roof at night. 

Environmental justice has been a movement historically led by white males who have rallied around the images of sustainability, more inclined to talk about parts per millions than addressing how U.S. driven climate change threatens the land rights and human rights of Native American and low income, communities of color. FCCAN recognizes that we must respect the leadership of Indigenous, Black and people of color as the front line communities who are most impacted by climate change- and do so as a deliberate, strategic choice made as a means to not only end the legacy of injustice in this country but an effort to protect our earth and future generations. 
Yes, all of these forces of oppression tear families apart, and while they are not in the headlines- FCCAN is doing the work to address these everyday realities with and for our community.

For us, knowing that we will be spending the upcoming holidays with our loved ones reiterates the necessity to continue acts of mutual aid for our chosen families here in Fort Collins.

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Lots of folks in Fort Collins who rely on our work are most affected by the burdens of poverty. We aren’t expecting or asking these important leaders in FCCAN to donate- but we are asking everyone else who can throw a little mutual aid our way because your money not only supports our work but the wide base of coalitions we support.

We are writing today to ask you to support our work by becoming a monthly sustainer. We are a small nonprofit, that depends on those in the community who can donate money. When you give to FCCAN know that you are also supporting a large portion of our volunteer activists and leaders who spend time and effort with us but are not in a position to give us money. PLUS YOU’LL GET A FREE CALENDAR! (KEEP READING!) 

When you sign up to become a monthly sustainer at $25 or more, you will be gifted a beautiful 2019 Peace Calendar, which features social justice organizers and resisters from all over the country and the world.

Donte to FCCAN so we can continue to do the daily work of grassroots activism and get your free calendar.

To become a monthly sustainer (its super easy):

1. Head on over to our donation page.
2. Click the “Donate” button (or send us a check in the mail or call us at 970-419-8944 to donate over the phone!).

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