Election Deadline Looming in Teller County Unlimited Terms in Victor May Top ballot issues -By Rick Langenberg

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It’s off to the races in much of Teller County with the deadline looming for the municipal and special district showdowns, with several pivotal ballot issues and contested votes.

With the clock ticking, it appears that Cripple Creek’s incumbent mayor will retain the head elected seat for the second time, while one of the town’s most experienced politicians is calling it quits. In addition, contested votes may be in store for the remaining council positions.

And in Victor, the town residents will cast tallies on one of the bolder petition efforts proposed in recent years: a plan to end term limits for elected officials. This is just one of two ballot issues planned in the City of Mines.

Meanwhile, Teller’s main ambulance district may hit try to rally support for a sales tax hike to deal with the impacts associated with the Affordable Health Care Act. Plus, the Woodland Park RE-2 School District may present a ballot issue of its own.

These are some of the highlights of the fall elections, slated for Nov. 3, with the deadline approaching for finalizing the ballots. Since this is an off-year election, much is at stake for local cities and special districts.

Cripple Creek and Victor
The forthcoming elections have big impacts for Cripple Creek and Victor with a total of six council seats under contention.

Pending any last-minute changes, Bruce Brown, who was first appointed to the mayoral spot in 2010, following the resignation of Dan Baader, will gain the head elected leader position again. This will mark Brown’s final term as mayor. Brown faces no opposition, meaning that he will become one of the longest-serving mayors in recent history in Cripple Creek.

In other big political announcements in the Creek, Terry Wahrer, who played a big role in the campaign to legalize limited stakes gaming, has decided not to run for re-election as a Ward 4 representative. This is one of two council seats up for grabs. Wahrer, a former mayor, has been a frequent member of the city council during the last 20 years.

The candidates for the Ward 4 seat include Tom Litherland, a former mayor and a leader of the library district, and Kirk Pederson, a newcomer to the local political ranks, according to preliminary reports.

For the contested Ward 5 seat, a showdown may occur between incumbent Chris Hazlett, a local business owner, and Les Batson, who once manned the old Fire Station #3 museum for the city of Cripple Creek.

However, the final candidate slate still must be confirmed by the city clerk’s office. As of press time Monday, not all the candidate petitions had been submitted prior to the Aug. 24 deadline.

In Victor, the candidates include Tarla Perdew and Diana Bowman for Ward 1 and Terry Akins and Jon Strever for Ward 2.

But in Victor, the main focus will hinge on two council-sponsored ballot issues that have raised a few eyebrows. The most controversial measure includes a bid to eliminate term limits for all elected positions. In the wording of this proposal, the ballot proponents say that it’s tough to find candidates to serve positions in Victor and that all incumbent office-holders still must undergo a regular election to retain their seats. As a result, proponents of this idea don’t see any issues with infringing on the democratic process.

Efforts to do away with term limits on a county-wide basis haven’t been very successful. However, on the local level, these types of propositions have fared much better in smaller communities. Still, no plans have been proposed recently to completely ax term limits for all positions and allow unlimited terms. Currently, all elected office-holders in towns and districts in Colorado are restricted to eight consecutive years, according to state laws. However, individual cities, districts and counties can amend these rules, if they get the voter okay.

In another ballot issue, the town wants to change the positions of treasurer and city clerk from elected slots into appointed positions. This has been done in other smaller communities, such as Cripple Creek.

Challenges for the Ambulance District
In other pending ballot issues, the Ute Pass Regional Ambulance District, which is undergoing an organizational change in establishing a health services district, is mulling a ballot proposition. Although the final wording hasn’t been finalized, the district may present the voters with a bid for a sales tax hike to help offset ongoing financial pressures. If this measure is finalized, it won’t change the current mill levy in the district.

In a previous meeting before the county commissioners, Tim Dienst, the chief executive director of the ambulance company, noted that the district has faced growing financial challenges associated with the Affordable Health Care Act, known as Obamacare. “We have planned for economic ups and downs, but we didn’t prepare for Obamacare,” said Dienst in a presentation before the commissioners. He stated that the district has gotten walloped due to the increase in Medicare/Medicaid patients from the health care act, which has created a limited reimbursement amount.

The Woodland Park RE-2 School District also may present a ballot issue to the voters dealing with the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, according to sources. District officials, though, have declined comment. Sept. 4 is the deadline for finalizing issues for the Nov. ballot.

Both the RE-2 and the RE-1 school districts also have a combined total of five board seats up for grabs.