For those voters who are still grappling with ballot overdrive, here are a few suggestions from The Mountain Jackpot (TMJ) newspaper regarding key issues for the Nov. 8 showdown.
Warning One: The ballot proposition invasion is not an illusion, and will probably become a familiar trend.
Warning Two: Several of these views differ from those provided by local elected leaders.
Proposal to end term limits (1A): No, no and then no. Did we say no? These plans have been attempted in the past and failed miserably. The most recent attempt locally occurred in Victor, and that defeat was a further testament to the fact that Tellerians love term limits. If such a plan could have worked, that was the place for such a proposition, with their limited population base. Term limits and Taxpayer Bill of Rights are both popular initiatives, sparked by the anti-government movement of the 1990s. We don’t see that trend changing anytime soon, despite the good arguments made by District Attorney Dan May and Teller County Commissioner Dave Paul in lobbying for this plan.
The problem with the county’s proposal is that it is too open-ended, and should be restricted to certain positions. Plus, we disagree that the county doesn’t have an adequate pool of contenders for these positions. With unlimited term limits, the good ol’ boy and girl system that dominates too much of county politics would only increase. If anything, the county should look at ways to increase candidate interest in their elected positions. In addition, incumbents would have an unquestionable advantage, with the term limit ban plan.
Broadband Initiatives (1B, 2B, 2C, 2D, and 2F): No. The county made a great effort in putting an overall communications plan together and deserves an A-plus in that regard. However, from the implementation side, it garners an F-minus, and we don’t trust government interference in attempting to pull us from the so-called Dark Ages of telecommunications. The big winners here, if this passes, are government consultants. Terms such as partnerships and collaborations are cute political correct phrases, but they aren’t attuned to reality in the high country and in solving our communications woes. Plus, the arguments made by a key local provider, Peak Internet, regarding the lack of collaboration, are troubling.
The counties and interested cities would have been better off delaying a vote on the telecommunications, opt-out measure, working more with the current providers, doing less studies, and coming up with a more realistic, practical plan. And then there are the prospects of forming a new non-profit telecommunications organizations and “advocacy team” that will supposedly solve our problems, under the recently approved $75,000-plus study. Sounds like more government bureaucracy. Frankly, there are just too many unanswered questions with this ballot proposal.
Lodging Tax Increase in Cripple Creek and Green Mountain Falls (2A, 2E): Yes. Lodging levies in Cripple Creek are long overdue and could re-fuel their marketing and special events engine. Great improvements have occurred in the last year, with special events, and this would only boost Cripple Creek’s prospects of becoming a more well-rounded community. The Deadwood, South Dakota model is a good one to follow, and the town needs to pursue more non-gaming activities and play out its heritage tourism card.
In Green Mountain Falls, the extra tax money would slightly help improve their deteriorating parks.
Although many regard this as a tax, it is a levy that visitors hardly notice. Travelers and overnight guests almost expect such a fee. These taxes won’t impact local residents.
Cripple Creek/Victor RE-1 School Tax (2A): Yes. This plan is only a slight levy and would stabilize the district’s budget, which has faced continual cuts due to our brain dead governor, John Hickenlooper, and other fine state leaders. We applaud the conservative, stance taken by district leaders, but this stand can only go on so far.
Green Mountain Falls/Chipita Park Fire Protection District Tax Plan (4A): Yes. There is absolutely no question that the GMF/Chipita Park Fire Protection District needs a new fire station. Their current headquarters is completely outdated and situated in a bad dangerous spot, located in the middle of a flood plain zone. Their plan has been well-thought-out and offers a good long-term solution. Plus, the fire district, one of the best volunteer agencies in the region, needs to be rewarded for their success in recent years, especially in the wake of the Waldo Canyon fire and floods. The recent Talcott fire near the Rampart Reservoir is a blunt reminder of the importance of emergency services in our area.
Our only concern deals with the tax burden of local residents, with the current mill levy requirements for lower Ute Pass residents. But if you view the long-term proposal with a new fire station, this is a winning proposition for district residents. If this passes, this could open the door for more grant money that may lower future debt obligations.
Key State Issues
State Health Care System (Amendment 69): No. This highly publicized proposition, which has sparked a flurry of letters from both sides, has some good points. But this plan is just way too radical for Colorado at this time, and the timing isn’t good with the concerns over Obamacare and the advent of a new presidential administration. The prospects of $25 billion in extra taxes and fees are outright scary. We won’t go as far as describing this measure as “communism” and “socialism,” like the Teller County commissioners, but the proposition has some troubling aspects that would seriously impact small businesses.
Increase in Minimum Wage (Amendment 70): No. Again, this plan has some good points, but similar to Amendment 69, it is too radical for Colorado. Our state prides itself as a hub for tourism and small businesses, and this plan would negatively impact these interests.
And with a new presidential administration, this is an issue that will probably be explored more by the feds.
Raising the Bar for Future Constitutional Amendments (Amendment 71): No. We respectfully disagree with our friends from the WP Chamber of Commerce and the Teller County Commission in opposing this measure. Moreover, we are particularly troubled by the idea of requiring a 55 percent majority state-wide vote for new Colorado amendments to get approved.
That clashes with the spirit of democracy. Plus, supporters of this measure are taking a hypocritical stand. Teller County is a prime benefactor of the citizen-generated initiative process, which led to the approval of limited stakes gaming in 1990. No one can deny that this amendment has been a major economic driver in our region for the last 20 years. Do our leaders forget this fact? We remember fondly the actions taken by local residents in Cripple Creek, Central City and Black Hawk to alter their deteriorating economic fate by actively campaigning for limited stakes gaming. Through a lot of hard work, they got the issue on the state ballot and overcame strong opposition by the then Colorado governor, Roy Romer, and garnered a wide majority in the subsequent election. A latter vote then occurred for adding additional games like craps and roulette.
True, the commissioners and chamber leaders have a point in noting that the process has gotten out-of-hand since 1995. In reality, there are good and bad citizen-generated petition propositions. We like the idea of having to collect signatures in the various senate districts and not allowing petition organizers to stack the deck by obtaining a vast majority of their needed autographs in big cities like Denver. Other parts of this plan, though, are too extreme and would disenfranchise the people of Colorado.
Increase in Tobacco Taxes (Amendment 72): No. This is just another plan, giving the government the right to play big brother. Proponents of this measure haven’t really proved their case and are targeting one particular industry too much.
Presidential Primary Changes (Propositions 107 and 108): Yes. The fact that Colorado had to play a backseat role in the 2016 presidential race through its outdated caucus system, especially for Republicans, says it all. Colorado was a big swing state and didn’t get a chance to partake in the heated Republican presidential race.
Changes are needed in how the major parties select presidential candidates in our state and these issues are a step in the right direction. Moreover, with the large amount of unaffiliated voters, we believe they should be allowed to partake in the process.
For the other state ballot questions, we recommend the following: flip a coin.