EDITOR'S DESK: My blatant attempt to influence your voteBy Kenyon Jordan
With the election coming up, here's my unsolicited take on the ballot that most Westsiders will get. Note that for the candidates I'm limiting myself just to the races for District 18 state representative and District 3 county commissioner.
- District 18 state representative. CAMERON FORTH. Pete Lee, the three-term incumbent Democrat, refused to answer Westside Pioneer questions about state-run health care, vetting of international refugees coming to Colorado, the EPA's fossil-fuel crackdown, gun rights, median panhandlers and the raging debates about white/black and LGBT/Christianity. Lee didn't explain his reluctance. My
- El Paso county commissioner, District 3. STAN VANDERWERF. I like his Democrat opponent, Electra Johnson, who is a business professional, a wife and a mom. However, her answers to our questionnaire reflected typical Democrat views about greater government involvement in our lives. VanderWerf is a business owner who wants government to be more efficient at providing required services while seeking innovative ways to stimulate free enterprise. This is the commission district that Westside resident and business owner Sallie Clark has diligently served for 12 years. VanderWerf should carry on her solid example.
Now, on to the ballot questions.
- 3C (School District 11), a property tax override mill levy. NO. School people frown that the Colorado Legislature hasn't provided enough funding for years and it doesn't help that El Paso County has one of the lowest property tax rates in the state. But is that reason enough to hit property owners with a permanent override of the TABOR law, along with built-in adjustments for inflation? Combined with 3D (see below), the average rate for property owners would start at about $10 a month, and eventually grow to $20, according to district estimates. That computes to about $200-plus a year - considerably more costly than the D-11 construction bond issue that voters approved in 2005. What we'd get for 3C sounds good - enhanced safety, smaller classes, quality staff, money to handle charter schools and modern technology/equipment. But details are lacking, the request seems like too big a bite at one time, and the infinite part of it scares me. The district should have been asking for smaller, clearly defined increases over the years, citing specific needs and offering sunset dates, not trying to catch up all at once and forever.
- 3D (School District 11), a buildings bond issue. YES. But with some reservations. 3C's biggest Westside focus is on the old West Junior High facility, which was built in 1924 and since 2009 has housed West Middle and West Elementary schools. D-11's bond spending plan uses the word “replace,” but follow-up questions from the Westside Pioneer to D-11 left open the option that the old structure could be renovated instead. For a district that's asking so much of property owners financially (along with 3C, above), it's disturbing that the potential demolition of a key older building on the Westside - which is all about historic architecture - was contemplated without even a heads-up to local residents, businesses or the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS). At least the district has promised (in response to Pioneer questions) a multi- meeting public process, and thankfully the OCCHS has already weighed in with objections. Other specific Westside proposals in the bond issue are additions at Howbert Elementary and the Academy for Advanced & Creative Learning charter school. Space needs can't be denied. Another favorable point: The bond issue tax hike (unlike 3C) will eventually terminate.
Here are the two constitutional amendments put on the ballot by the Colorado Legislature…
- Amendment T. Remove slavery as potential punishment for crime. YES. Well, duh. Except, just watch the ACLU use this as a foot in the door to abolish prisons altogether. What, you think I'm joking?
- Amendment U. End “possessory interests” property tax. YES. True, it's an “unfair tax break,” as the State Ballot Information Booklet (“Blue Book”) argument against it states. But the tax also affects relatively few people (such as ranchers and river-rafting companies) and often costs more to collect than it brings in, as the Blue Book's pro-U argument states. I can't state, but I can hope... that supporting the tax's demise will result in cheaper steaks and rafting fees.
Here are the Colorado constitutional amendment proposals that were petitioned onto the ballot (note that they all have numbers under 100)…
- Amendment 69. ColoradoCare, statewide health-care system. NO. Didn't we learn our lesson about government-run health programs from Obamacare? In any case, if you like this plan, you will definitely be able to keep this plan (because it'll be in the state constitution). And if you don't like it, 69's wording says you'll be taxed for it, anyway.
- Amendment 70. Raise minimum wage over 40 percent between 2017 and 2020. NO. Seeing as government has had its fingers in this pie for years (a mystery in itself), a nice compromise might be to require the hike for some jobs, but let employers pay sub-minimum for others. That way, they could afford to hire more entry-level employees - even take chances on questionably productive applicants, such as teenagers, ex-cons and the homeless. Unfortunately, if 70 passes, based on history, the number of minimum-wage jobs will go down. So get used to the idea of machines taking your orders at fast-food joints... or even fixing your lattes.
- Amendment 71. Make it harder to amend the Colorado Constitution. YES. I've been leaning both ways on this measure. On the one hand, deep-pocketed entities could easily override 71's controls, but shoestring-funded grassroots groups not so much. On the other hand, is that reason enough not to at least minimally restrain a process that, with the help of modern technology, has remarkably simplified qualifying initiatives for the ballot? One major plus of 71: Petitioners would have to procure signatures in all the State Senate districts, instead of just focusing on major urban areas.
- Amendment 72. Triple state cigarette taxes. NO. This one sounds good because we all know tobacco is unhealthy; besides, using the revenues for a healthy cause has a nice ring to it. But 72 sets a doubtful precedent, allowing a majority group (non-smokers) to radically increase the financial punishment on a minority group (smokers). Some of the amendment's designated tax-revenue categories/programs aren't even directly related to smoking issues. If the cigarette habit is so awful, then why not just make it illegal? Revenues to help people quit could come from fining bootleggers and other blatant violators. Maybe that plan has flaws too, but it seems more honest.
Here are the Colorado statute proposals, which also got on the ballot through the initiative process…
- Proposition 106. “Access to Medical Aid-in-Dying Medication.” NO. Tough call. Why shouldn't suffering people, with a prognosis of six months or less to live, be given the right to end their lives? But if 106 passes, what message would that send to confused Colorado residents who are already walking down the darkest of roads? Go ahead and jump? Another way of looking at this: Would the writers of this bill, who put in it multiple safeguards to ensure that an individual would not choose self-destruction carelessly, support a bill requiring the same precautions for a pregnant woman considering an abortion?
- Propositions 107 and 108. Require presidential primaries and let unaffiliated voters take part in any primary. NO ON BOTH. Why is it in the state's interest to stipulate what kind of pre-election system political parties use? Beyond that, allowing unaffiliated voters to stick their oars in either party's business is an open invitation for political confusion, not to mention mischief. Nor will presidential primaries come cheap - the estimated cost for 2020 is $2.7 million for the state alone, according to the Blue Book.
So there you have it - one person's election opinions. As you undoubtedly know, we have mail-in ballots again this year (with various drop-off locations if you want to save a stamp), and the deadline - what we used to call Election Day - is Tuesday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. For more information, call the County Election Office at 575-VOTE (8683) or go to epcvotes.com.
Oh, wait. I can't resist one more…
- United States president. DONALD TRUMP. Rough-edged, even crude, not a polished speaker? Well, he's a construction man, for cripe's sake. I'll take straight talk over Clinton spin any day. And I definitely like the idea of an America that celebrates being united, strong and smart, instead of one that wallows in divisiveness, weakness and tomfoolery.
OK. I'm done now.
(Posted 10/17/16; Opinion: Editor's Desk)
Kenyon Jordan is the editor of the Westside Pioneer.