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Election Day is not until Nov. 6, but ballots have already been sent out this week to registered voters throughout El Paso County in the county's first all-mail ballot election. Voters should carefully read the instructions when filling out their ballots and return them by Tuesday, Nov. 6. They may be mailed, with 53-cent postage, to the address marked on the return envelope, or they may be dropped off at the following locations: Centennial Hall at 200 S. Cascade Ave.; the Chapel Hills Mall between JC Penney and Mervyns on the north side (1710 Briargate Blvd., Suite 350); and 115 Fontaine Boulevard in Widefield.

The Independent offers the following endorsements on the issues and candidates:


State

Amendment 26, the Interstate 70 monorail: Yes

We need solutions to the unbearable traffic jams choking Interstate 70 West into the mountains. This proposal would dedicate $50 million of surplus state tax revenue to have the high-tech Transportation Test Center near Pueblo explore the feasibility of building a high speed, energy-efficient monorail connecting Denver International Airport with the Eagle County Airport, 160 miles to the west. If the research shows the monorail's feasibility, the system could be expanded to connect Colorado's Front Range cities, making the state a leader in transportation solutions and planning for future generations.


Referendum A, Great Outdoors Colorado funding: Yes

Without raising taxes, this statewide initiative would give the Great Outdoors Colorado program the flexibility to inject $115 million for acquiring open space while interest rates are at historic lows and while particularly valued land is still available. We join a broad coalition of proponents -- from nature photographer John Fielder to Republican Gov. Bill Owens -- in endorsing this commonsense measure.


El Paso County

Questions A1 and A2: Yes

Colorado Springs anti-tax activist and landlord Douglas Bruce has wreaked havoc on us for far too long. The county -- overseen by elected fiscal conservatives -- says it needs $8.8 million to pay for much-needed road, bridge and drainage projects (Measure A1). The money does not represent new taxes, but instead would tap into excess revenues to pay for basic infrastructure.

Measure A2 would permanently de-Bruce El Paso County from unnecessary revenue caps, thereby saving us from having to vote every year on such measures for future projects.


Question A3: No

This proposal to eliminate term limits for coroners is the direct result of the fact that El Paso County's soon-to-be-term limited Republican coroner, Dr. David Bowerman, also happens to be a forensic pathologist. While we believe that Dr. Bowerman is competent, we do not believe that term limits should be monkeyed around with on a case-by-case basis.


City of Colorado Springs

SCIP Questions B1-7: Yes on all

Voters can pick and choose which projects they want to pay for to help improve Colorado Springs. We support them all. Why? Massive growth combined with the elimination of the half-cent sales tax for capital improvements -- phased out beginning in 1992 -- has left the burgeoning city unable to cope with a massive increase in demands for basic services. These proposals would inject much-needed cash for police, fire, roads, traffic (including helping fix the city's pathetic synchronized traffic light system) and transportation projects, drainage and parks and recreation.


Manitou Springs

Mayor

Marcy Morrison

The stress of growth, notably the potential for development of both Red Rock Canyon and Section 16, has placed Manitou Springs at a critical juncture, in need of a savvy and proven communicator and statesman. Morrison, who has a track record spanning more than a quarter century of public service in state and local politics, is that leader. The incumbent mayor, Nancy Hankin, has contributed a good deal to Manitou Springs during her tenure, most notably helping to launch the town's free summer trolley. But Morrison brings an unmatched breadth of knowledge during this crucial time.


Manitou Springs Council Ward 1

Donna Ford

Ford, co-owner of a downtown music shop for the past three decades, has a long history of civic involvement as well as an understanding of the needs of Manitou's year-round merchants. She is also a clear proponent of keeping Manitou safe from unsuitable development. Her opponent, architect Kerstin Eriksson, has served well on Council for eight years. But we think the city would be better served with Ford's fresh insights and perspective.


Manitou Springs Council Ward 2

Kathy Verlo

Former teacher, health therapist, active environmentalist and incumbent Kathleen "Kathy" Verlo deserves your support. Verlo, Manitou's representative to the Pikes Peak Council of Governments, has a comprehensive understanding of the myriad issues facing the city.


Manitou Springs Council Ward 3

Phillip St. Cloud

Due to a string of resignations, four different people have represented this district in the past four years. Tax attorney Phillip "Val" St. Cloud, who was appointed just six months ago, has thrown himself into his position and understands both the city budget and tax issues as well as the day-to-day needs of his constituents.


School district measures

Harrison District 2: Yes

Academy District 20: Yes

District 11: Yes

We support efforts to increase taxes for the purchase of bonds in Harrison District 2 and Academy District 20. In both districts, thoughtful grassroots campaigns have been waged and the stated needs for improvement of existing facilities and expansion into new facilities are valid, given the rapid population growth in both areas. Opponents argue that infusions of money will not improve student achievement. We argue that children cannot learn in overcrowded schools using sub-standard textbooks in classes where the teachers are overwhelmed by the sheer number of children.

We also support District 11's de-Brucing measure, and all others on the Nov. 6 ballot. Neither the school districts nor the constituents they serve deserve the extra time and expense required to hold such special elections.

Editor's Note: Last week we incorrectly reported the D-20 bond issue includes a de-Brucing measure that would allow the district to override special elections for approval to spend extra revenues. In fact, it does not.


School Board Races

District 11: Karen Teja, Mary Wierman, Catherine Ball

Eight candidates are vying for three seats on the board of the city's largest school district, including two incumbents. We endorse incumbents Karen Teja and Mary Wierman, and candidate Catherine Ball.

Both Teja and Wierman strongly support D-11 Superintendent Dr. Norm Ridder, whose open communications efforts and hands-on approach seem to have galvanized the district in the past two years. We believe they deserve the chance to continue working on key issues including reducing class size and improving student achievement.

And along with Ball -- a veteran D-11 teacher and key D-11 volunteer running a low-key, grassroots campaign -- both incumbents promised to address the issue of ridiculously early start times in D-11 high schools.


Academy District 20: Ann Elrod, Richard Valorose, Frederich Ehlers

Ann Elrod, formerly a teacher, assistant principal and principal, now a professor at UCCS, brings sterling education credentials and a record of meaningful community involvement to the D-20 board. Incumbent Richard Valorose deserves another four years leading the district forward. And Frederich Ehlers, too, is eminently qualified to address the need for higher academic standards and to continue raising the bar in District 20.


Harrison School Board 2: Kay C. Mast, Jesse Brown, Jr., Jan Bruner

The board of Harrison School District 2 has been besieged by squabbling and infighting for the past few years, and some stellar candidates have risen to the task of running for election there.

Our hearty endorsement goes to Kay C. Mast, a Harrison school teacher whose skills at team building and collaboration combined with her knowledge of the needs and strengths of the district should improve district administration and communication significantly.

We also endorse the candidacy of community activist and pastor Jesse Brown, Jr. who brings many years of advocacy for youth and intense involvement among Colorado Springs neediest families to the table. Brown should provide a voice of experience and sage advice to a district with a widely diverse socio-economic and ethnic constituency.

Among the three incumbents running, we endorse Jan Bruner for another term. Outspoken and dedicated, Bruner has demonstrated a strong commitment to the children of the community and deserves to continue her efforts on their behalf.

Cheyenne Mountain School District

We endorse incumbent Ann Naughten and parent volunteer Linda Warren for the two available seats on that board.

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