Local voters will have a lot more on their election plate this November than making picks for the next president and casting tallies on heated races for Colorado’s U.S. Senate seat and other national competitions.
Once again, ballot proposition fever is pervading Teller County and the Ute Pass, with residents facing a bombardment of issues, including a plan to allow current officer-holders to serve an unlimited amount of terms if citizens don’t vote them out of office.
Last week, this ballot trend continued as the Teller County commissioners approved two resolutions for referring issues to the voters.
One of these involved a pro-technology proposition and was highly expected. It would permit the county to join many other communities across Colorado in opting out of restrictions imposed by the state in not allowing local governments to enter the telecommunications arena through doing any partnerships with private providers. According to county leaders, this opt-out proposition would pave the way for the county to secure nearly $10 million in state and federal grants to have more enhanced broadband Internet capabilities and better cell phone service. In previous meetings, this plan has received strong support from local residents in rural areas, who are more concerned with improving their services than worrying about government interference.
County leaders say they don’t intend to compete with private providers, but want to assist them through possible lease and sale agreements for infrastructure development, specifically with fiber optic capabilities. Similar measures are expected in other communities throughout Teller, such as Cripple Creek and Woodland Park.
No more term limits
The other issue, however, is bound to raise eyebrows across the county and generate much debate. This deals with a pursuit to do away with state-mandated term limits for all elected positions, including the seats of all three commissioners, the sheriff, assessor, coroner, clerk and recorder and treasurer. This resolution was approved by a unanimous vote, but it occurred following considerable testimony for and against the effort to eliminate term limits. The commissioners themselves had mixed views regarding the merits of the anti-term limit ballot proposition.
The timing of this proposition may raise questions as a number of elected leaders have already entered their second and final terms, while two other high profile leaders could be entering this stage next January.
However, in their resolution, the commissioners cited the fact that 23 Colorado counties, many of which are of similar size to Teller, have already eliminated term limits. Plus, the resolution states that “the positions of these elected officials are often managerial in nature, require extensive experience and training and/or involve fostering relationships with local, state and federal authorities.”
This proposal, however, would have to overcome past historical trends. More recently, the idea of term limits for all elected leaders got thrashed by the citizens of Victor. And in the late 1990s, Teller County leaders tried to eliminate term restrictions for certain elected positions and conducted an aggressive campaign. But voters strongly rejected this idea by more than a two-to-one margin.
And in neighboring El Paso County, bids to eliminate or reduce term limits have generated much controversy. Favorable votes for reducing term limits for certain seats were later rejected in a subsequent election, with citizens claiming they were initially mislead.
However, the idea of changing the term limit law has been mulled across Colorado in recent years, especially for smaller counties that don’t have a strong pool of contenders for elected positions. Teller’s anti-term limit resolution was endorsed by District Attorney Dan May and by former county commissioner Jim Ignatius.
Proponents of the resolution say if voters aren’t happy with the job performance of their county elected leaders, they can vote them out of office. The ballot issue, spearheaded by Commissioner Dave Paul, wouldn’t alter the fact that all incumbent office-holders would face an election every four years. Opponents of the idea, though, say it could deter from citizen engagement and would favor incumbent office-holders.
The current term limits for elected positions at the county and state level are restricted to eight consecutive years. This restriction was imposed by voters in the early 1990s.
Term limits locally have posed some challenges for the positions of clerk and recorder and assessor due to the technical nature of these jobs.
But the idea of abandoning term limits for the three county commissioner slots and the sheriff position could turn into a political brouhaha and produce much discussion on social media outlets. These positions typically attract a competitive field, especially when no incumbents are running for these seats.
If term limits are abandoned, this could provide more of an advantage for current incumbents and the status quo administrations for these offices, according to pro-term limit advocates.
Another side issue deals with the dominance of the Teller County Republican Party in determining elected positions. The idea of “no term limits” would make it even more difficult for unaffiliated contenders and Democrats to seek these positions, according to political sources.
In any case, political observers say a bid to end term limits may require an aggressive campaign, as term limits have been quite popular in Teller County.
As for other ballot issues, citizens in Cripple Creek and possibly Green Mountain Falls will be deciding on lodging levies to help promote more tourism and visitation. Cripple Creek voters will be deciding on a 6 percent levy on paid overnight rooms, which won’t include comp rooms provided by casino operators. Meanwhile, Green Mountain Falls voters could decide on an additional 2 percent lodging tax. The GMF Board of Trustees is scheduled to make a decision on this proposition this week.