TMJ Stand on Ballot Issues Rick – Langenberg

BallotIssuesWith the election right around the corner in what has become known as initiative and ballot issue hysteria, here is our view on some of the key measures facing voters in Woodland Park on April 5.

Pro-Incentive Changes (Question 9) – This issue has been on the radar for years, with voters overwhelmingly supporting the current city ban against offering financial incentives and fee waivers for private developments and projects, with no exceptions. This measure was imposed when the original Wal-Mart project was first introduced in the late 1980s, with a little help from city hall.

But times have changed, and consequently, the current prohibitions place way too much pressure on the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority and local emergency service groups. In this downtown district, incentives are permitted and these waivers have played a role in certain key projects becoming a reality. But on the downside, this has created some awkward expansions of the district and thrown local emergency groups under the bus. Currently, groups, such as the local ambulance company, don’t reap the benefits of any extra tax dollars with DDA incentive-generated projects, even though they are forced to bear more responsibilities. That’s a bad deal for everyone. And if this measure fails, then look for bizarre changes to the DDA district.

We believe these possible incentives (with this amendment) for projects that offer a public benefit should occur throughout the city, as long as a detailed application process with guidelines is established. More importantly, these waivers could turn the tide in setting the stage for more affordable housing projects and provide more economic development opportunities. The current proponents of this charter amendment have strived to establish a good way to impose definite guidelines to make this work.

School Sales Tax (Issue 1) – Yes. This issue has encountered considerable debate. Nobody in Woodland Park or Teller County enjoys tax hikes of any kind. But unfortunately, the school district has encountered much financial pressure, thanks largely to our brain-dead state lawmakers and our idiot governor. These unfortunate trends are no fault of the RE-2 School District. As a result, the district now must fend for itself against a very difficult state funding current that has denied them $15 million over the last six years. This trend is only going to get worse, a scenario that could have huge impacts on the school district.

Overall, we believe the proponents of this issue have devised a good compromise and trade-off with a slight sales tax hike and a decrease in the RE-2-related mill levy. This will provide a good deal for property owners and will allow the district to make needed improvements and to address the matter of teacher salaries. And unlike past attempts, this time proponents of the issue have hit the ground running and have communicated their message quite well. They made a real good move by changing the ballot issue language slightly to provide more details as to how the extra money would be used. It’s just unfortunate that there are so many issues on the ballot this April. A sales tax increase, though, is a fair and equitable way to generate needed revenue, with everyone – tourists, non-city residents, and local citizens paying an extra penny (on the dollar) for items purchased in Woodland Park. That’s a small price for what this extra money could achieve for the district.

Anti-Newspaper Measure (Question 8) – No. This proposal, which would allow the city supposedly more flexibility in using their website and social media for posting ordinances, resolutions and notices, is just plain stupid. The charter review committee has claimed that they want to save money and establish more efficiency in crafting charter changes. Fine, but denying citizens a real chance to view laws and details of public notices is the wrong avenue to follow. This has been tried in the past, and it failed previously. We don’t see why it would work now.

Plus, the argument that people don’t read newspapers anymore is not that valid in our area, with a growing senior population.

Vacancy of Office Changes (Question 4) – Yes. This question is an absolute no-brainer and is the real impetus behind all the proposed charter changes. The fact that the current WP mayoral appointment was done in 2014 through pulling names out of a bowl says enough. This measure would merely allow the city to have a special election, if a final verdict regarding an appointment can’t be made by the city council.

Terms of Office (Question 3) – Yes. Again, this is a logical question, and it’s too bad it requires a charter amendment to deal with common sense. The terms of office, with the appointment process, have gotten extremely confusing in Woodland Park. This measure would clarify this situation and not require a council member to suddenly quit because the clock runs out on their term.

The Remaining Administrative Ballot Changes – Flip a coin. The charter committee made an aggressive attempt to overhaul the city’s mini-constitution. But in our opinion, this well-intended group proposed way too many issues. Ballot overload hopefully won’t mess up some of the vital issues being decided by the voters on April 5. Some of the remaining questions deal with such crisis matters as the following: when the city manager submits his annual report; how many copies of city codes should be kept by the clerk; keeping the city’s rules in tune with the state; and bonding requirements for city officials. Couldn’t some of these ridiculous questions been addressed at a later date, with all the pertinent issues at stake?