Elections

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Parks advocates gain clout on special panel to form ballot measure

Posted By on Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 1:21 PM

Citizens crowded into public meetings in 2016 about the city's trade of Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor. Most who attended the meetings opposed the trade and now want a ballot measure requiring voter approval of future such deals. (Kent Obee is third from left in the front row.) - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Citizens crowded into public meetings in 2016 about the city's trade of Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor. Most who attended the meetings opposed the trade and now want a ballot measure requiring voter approval of future such deals. (Kent Obee is third from left in the front row.)
After nearly two years of urging City Council to protect the taxpayers' parks and open space from land swaps like the one involving Strawberry Fields, a citizen group has been granted a seat on a special committee that will study a possible ballot measure.

Save Cheyenne, a nonprofit that formed amid debate surrounding trading Strawberry Fields to The Broadmoor in 2016, wants voters to weigh in on whether other city parks and open spaces should or should not be protected from a similar measure in the future.

Called Protect our Parks, the measure hasn't gotten traction, despite Council President Richard Skorman having at one time been the leader of Save Cheyenne. (He stepped down after being elected to Council in 2017.)

The city's swap of Strawberry Fields, 189 acres of open space near North Cheyenne Cañon, to The Broadmoor for forested acreages and trail rights-of-way in May 2016, created a huge controversy that triggered a lawsuit and court fight that ended last year when the Colorado Court of Appeal turned away Save Cheyenne's entreaties to undo the deal and allow voters to have a say in the swap.

At Council's Jan. 22 informal meeting, Save Cheyenne president Kent Obee told Council the city has three types of property:

1. Historic park land dedicated to the city by deed restriction by city founder Gen. William Palmer and other philanthropic donors, such as the Perkins family's gift of Garden of the Gods.

2. Property purchased through the Trails Open Space and Parks tax approved by voters that automatically is protected from sale or trade via the TOPS ordinance.

3. All other park land and open space not protected by either a deed restriction or the TOPS ordinance.

As Obee noted, "They belong to all of us. We think all of us should have a say when something is decided about giving away or trading park land."

Obee also noted that at least 40 cities and towns in Colorado have protections from sale or trade of park land built in to their city charters, including home rule cities like Colorado Springs. Others rely on a state statute that provides for elections to dispose of park land in local jurisdictions.

"We do want to go ahead with this," Obee told Council about the ballot measure. "We’re willing to work with you. We’re willing to be part of any committee or process you can outline. We think it’s important for the community, and we’re not giving up."

The city attorney has issued an opinion saying the POPs ballot language is confusing, causing Council to shy from referring it to the April 2 city election ballot.

But on Jan. 22, Council agreed to study a ballot measure further, and Mayor John Suthers' Chief of Staff Jeff Greene also consented to such a committee, which will arrive at an appropriately-worded ballot measure to submit to voters at the November election. That's the same election at which Suthers plans to seek voter approval of a five-year extension of his .62 percent roads tax.

The exact composition of this committee wasn't articulated, other than designating members of Obee's group and two City Council members to serve.

Said Skorman, "I hope we don’t have any of these types of transactions [like Strawberry Fields] coming forward that would be affected if we had acted sooner. I want to make sure that we’re not doing something that’s preemptive to voters. I wouldn’t want another trade to come forward in the next month that may be susceptible to a vote of the people."

Greene said city officials "aren’t entertaining any park land swaps," and "We are not anticipating any kind of transaction involving a large land exchange such as Strawberry Fields."
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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Parks protection ballot measure has lots of problems says city attorney

Posted By on Thu, Jan 17, 2019 at 5:39 PM

Kent Obee and dozens of other citizens opposed the Strawberry Fields land swap and now propose a ballot measure to stave off a similar action. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Kent Obee and dozens of other citizens opposed the Strawberry Fields land swap and now propose a ballot measure to stave off a similar action.

City Attorney Wynetta Massey has a lot of reasons why City Council shouldn't refer a measure to the April 2 ballot that would propose requiring a vote of the people before the city disposes of park land and open space.

The measure, Protect Our Parks, or POPs, is slated to be discussed by Council at its Jan. 22 work session.

But Massey clearly outlines why the measure is a bad idea from the mayor's and Council's perspective of wanting to maintain control over the ability to trade, sell or otherwise get rid of parks property. "The transfer of parkland is an administrative function of the Mayor, Parks Department, and City Council," she writes.

The POPs measure grew from Mayor John Suthers' and Council's controversial decision to trade the 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor in 2016. Most of the property, adjacent to North Cheyenne Cañon, has been placed in a conservation easement, which is designed to allow public access to all of the land except an 8-acre riding stable and picnic pavilion area reserved for Broadmoor guests.

Opponents of the swap, who formed the nonprofit Save Cheyenne, took the measure all the way to the Colorado Court of Appeals and lost. The state Supreme Court refused their plea to hear the case. They also raised questions about how the property was appraised.

(Notably, now-City Council President Richard Skorman was an original leader of Save Cheyenne, before being elected to Council in 2017.)

Now, POPs advocates want to be sure another Strawberry Fields swap or give-away doesn't recur, and want voters to approve a Charter change to prevent it.

But Massey's five-page legal opinion obtained by the Indy outlines myriad reasons why Council should not refer such a measure. She takes issue with the word "transferred," saying its an "undefined term." She notes the ballot language would ask for protection of "city parks" but isn't clear what that includes. (Read her entire opinion on the next page.)

It is perhaps notable that while some Councilors (Skorman included) favor the legal change, the mayor, who opposes it, has the power to hire and fire Massey. Past City Councilors have unsuccessfully sought to change city law to allow them to hire a separate attorney in cases where the mayor and Council have opposing viewpoints.

Kent Obee, who led the Strawberry Fields swap opponents, says he interprets Massey's opinion as a roadblock.
"They're just trying to throw every legal roadblock they can at what is basically a pretty simple issue," he says. "It is just nitpicking to try to block us or slow us down."

He notes that over 30 cities in Colorado, including Denver, Boulder and Aurora, have such protection for city parks.

Obee says if the measure isn't referred, proponents likely will try to petition the measure onto the November ballot, which also is likely to contain a five-year extension of Suthers' 2C road improvement tax.

For more detail, see the next page.



Here's the research upon which POPs is based:
Massey's opinion:
The ballot language:
Section 1: City owned parks and open space may not be sold, traded, exchanged, transferred, disposed, abandoned, conveyed, or otherwise alienated unless said transaction is approved by the voters in a City regular or special election.
Section 2: City parks shall be defined as: Any city owned land intended for use as public parkland or open space.
Examples of parks and open space include, but are not limited to: (a) city owned land that is in operation as a park or that is in a condition or state of readiness and availability for use as a park or open space; (b) land that is zoned or platted for the intended use as a park; (c) parks or open spaces identified in the Colorado Springs Parks System Master Plan dated September 23, 2014, Appendix A, and identified as parks classified as: regional, community, neighborhood, open space including special resource areas, sports, and special purpose parks; (d) future approved additions to the inventory of parks and open space as identified in future Colorado Springs Parks System Master Plans or similar documents; or (e) any part or portion of an existing park or open space.
Section 3: Exclusions: no vote is required for certain “specific transfers”, or “proposed parks”:
(a) Easements for utilities, right of ways or emergency services;
(b) Any court ordered transfers of title, possession or similar matters;
(c) Creation of a conservation easement or other similar actions intended for park protection;
(d) Survey, boundary or encroachment adjustments;
(e) Short term leasing or permitting in a manner consistent with parks use;
(f) Any land deemed unsuitable for park use due to safety or environmental issues;
(g) Proposed parks, in the planning and development process, under the Park Land Dedication Ordinance (PLDO) or similar ordinances;
(h) Transfers of trails, rather than parks or open spaces, for the purpose of development of trails, access to parks, improvement of a park or realignment of a trail;
Section 4: Nothing in this amendment shall lessen any existing park or open space protections.
Examples of existing protections that will not be lessened include, but are not limited to: (a) deed restrictions; (b) conservation easements; (c) protections under the Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) Ordinance; or (d) parks with historical designations.
Section 5: The purpose and intent of this amendment is to protect parks by recognizing the value that parks add to the community, users and property holders. Sale or transfer of parkland affects individuals that relied on representations of continuing park usage.
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Monday, January 14, 2019

41 percent of Suthers campaign fundraising comes from Broadmoor zip code

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2019 at 5:00 PM

Suthers: Wealthy people always give more to causes. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Suthers: Wealthy people always give more to causes.

Mayor John Suthers is off to a smashing good start in fundraising for his re-election campaign in the April 2 city election.

According to four reports filed since October, the most recent submitted on Jan. 2, Suthers has raised $95,797 from 247 donations. He had $45,160 on hand to begin with and has spent $18,639, which means he has $122,318 in the bank.

(So far, no candidates have qualified for the ballot, though the City Clerk's Office is in the process of verifying petition signatures.)

Of Suthers' total raised in this race, 41.5 percent — $39,730 — came from donors in the 80906 zip code. Of his 247 donors, 101 gave 80906 as their address.

The zip code is known for including wealthier residents, as it encompasses The Broadmoor, and it's also Suthers' home zip code, though he doesn't live in the Broadmoor area itself.  According to this website, the 80906 zip code has an average household income of $97,557 a year, compared to $77,814 for the city as a whole and $81,528 for El Paso County.

The site also shows that 10.1 percent of households in the 80906 zip code make more than $200,000 a year, compared to 4.7 percent in Colorado Springs and 5.2 percent of the county.

Those figures for 80906 would be higher, except that it also includes an area to the east, including Stratmoor Hills where incomes are more modest.
We asked Suthers, who's also served as district attorney and Colorado Attorney General, to comment on such a large portion of his campaign contributions coming from the southwest segment of the city. He responded via email, saying:
To clarify, while I have lived in the 80906 zip code all my life, I do not live in the Broadmoor and never have. I have lived in the Cheyenne Canyon [sic] area and in Skyway. But I spent most of my summers as a kid mowing lawns in the Broadmoor. Some of my customers have been lifelong political supporters.

My experience is that people with higher amounts of discretionary income are more likely to contribute to charitable and political causes and that as a result a disproportionate amount of our community's philanthropic and political giving comes from the 80906 zip code. You might check statewide and national political campaign giving from Colorado Springs and citywide charitable giving to analyze this.

The bottom line is that throughout my career my political support in Colorado Springs has been wide and deep and I believe it still is.
Two candidates have expressed interested in trying to unseat Suthers. They are Lawrence Martinez, a home care specialist, and Juliette Parker, who runs a nonprofit.

Voters will also elect three at-large City Council members on April 2 and decide whether to give firefighters collective bargaining powers.
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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wayne Williams: Council might be a warm-up lap for mayor's race in 2023

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2019 at 12:28 PM

Williams: Playing the long game? - COURTESY OF WAYNE WILLIAMS
  • Courtesy of Wayne Williams
  • Williams: Playing the long game?
Long-time local Republican politician Wayne Williams turned in a candidate petition on Jan. 8 to run for an at-large seat on the Colorado Springs City Council in the April 2 election.

OK. That's not news. But Williams tells the Independent the rumors are true that he's eyeing a run for mayor four years from now.

"The reason I'm running for Council is because I want to do a good job for Colorado Springs. If I'm successful and do a good job, that's something I would likely look at," he says, referring to a mayoral run.

If he ran and won, Williams, who served a term as Colorado Secretary of State before being defeated by Democrat Jena Griswold in his re-election bid in November, would be the second mayor of Colorado Springs in a row who had previously been elected to a statewide office.

Mayor John Suthers served as Colorado Attorney General before becoming mayor in 2015.

Suthers could make history of his own if re-elected this year by becoming the first two-term mayor under the mayor-council form of government approved by voters in 2010.

Williams, 55, who's lived in the Briargate area for 26 years, would be well-positioned to seek the mayor's seat. The at-large seat is a citywide race, and Williams has the name recognition needed to appeal to voters across the city. He was elected twice to serve the northern district as an El Paso County commissioner; he won the county-wide election in 2010 for clerk and recorder, and he captured a term as Colorado Secretary of State in 2014. (The Indy endorsed Williams in his 2018 re-election bid.)

Williams says he's not concerned about the abysmal Council salary of $6,250 a year, because he plans to keep his law practice going and also enter the consulting world in the field of elections. (Williams was recognized for excellence in managing elections while Secretary of State, although he was also criticized for turning over voter information to President Trump's voter fraud commission.)

In addition, Williams' wife, Holly, was sworn in on Jan. 8 as an El Paso County commissioner, a post that pays $120,485 a year.

While some have speculated the Williamses could encounter conflicts of interest if one holds a county seat while the other holds a city seat, Williams dispelled concerns over that. "Sometimes our interests align and sometimes they do not," he says. If a perceived financial conflict of interest arose, he would recuse himself, as would his wife. The city and county cooperate on some projects, but that coordination doesn't necessarily pose a financial conflict for office holders, he noted.

Asked about his obviously partisan background in a city race that is, by City Charter, nonpartisan, the former El Paso County GOP chair says his service in various political offices has been "fair and nonpartisan." He also notes that Irv Halter, who ran for Congress as a Democrat and served in Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper's administration, signed Williams' Council candidate petition, as did Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn.

It's unclear whether Williams will have a leg up in fundraising against his competitors. He says he expects only a few thousand dollars to be left from his Secretary of State campaign, which he could legally transfer into his Council campaign, as did former state legislator Keith King. King transferred $10,459 to his city campaign when he successfully ran in 2013.

Others who've said they'll seek one of three at-large seats up for grabs include incumbents Tom Strand and Bill Murray (Merv Bennett is term-limited), former Councilor Val Snider, Army veteran Tony Gioia, and Terry Martinez, former Will Rogers Elementary School principal and former candidate for House District 18.

Filing deadline is Jan. 22.
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Friday, November 30, 2018

Scientist Trish Zornio mulls run against Cory Gardner

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2018 at 4:46 PM

Trish Zornio wants scientists in politics. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Trish Zornio wants scientists in politics.
Trish Zornio knows unseating Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner as a relative unknown and political first-timer is a long shot.

It's partly for that reason that the 33-year-old science lecturer says she embarked on a 64-county "exploratory tour" of Colorado to determine whether a grassroots campaign could be successful.

Zornio, who teaches behavioral neuroscience at the University of Denver, says the moment that triggered her decision to run for office came when she sat in the audience of a Senate hearing on automated technology while on a work trip to Washington, D.C., several years ago.

"I had this moment of realization where I realized there wasn't a single scientist on that panel," Zornio said at an event Nov. 28. "I set about asking the question, Can we incorporate scientists into elected offices and can we bring in different types of expertise to a place that has typically been reserved for people of different backgrounds in more of the law and more of business. So can we actually put scientists on the science committee?

Zornio has already hit 60 counties — which she points out many candidates don't even bother to do. Should she decide to run, she faces an uphill battle against Gardner, who reportedly already has $1 million on hand for his next campaign, and a pool of Democratic candidates that could include Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran, former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Gov. John Hickenlooper. (So far, just one candidate, nonprofit director Lorena Garcia, has announced plans to run.)

Zornio answers questions from audience members at Library 21c on Nov. 28. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Zornio answers questions from audience members at Library 21c on Nov. 28.

On her Nov. 28 tour stop at Colorado Springs' Library 21c, Zornio answered questions from audience members about her stances on various issues. Here's a few questions and answers (edited for brevity) so you can get to know her:

Jack Heiss: Through the passage of a recent I think ill-informed tax cut and what amounts to a drunk sailor budget that were passed, we're pushing trillion dollar ... deficits. The dollar won't take it for very long...We got to fix this now. What do you say, how do you fix this without losing an election?

This is very personal to me. Because unlike many of the people who are making the decisions in office today, I will be here for 60 years hopefully, and I'm going to have to be part of that economy that's struggling as a result… One thing in particular that I would really like to see is that we have a comprehensive understanding of where the money is actually going and that we can actually vet for the way it's being spent currently, because sometimes there are aspects of the budget that are not being monitored in that same sort of way, in military especially. That's not to suggest that I want to cut in any sort of way security or anything like that, but I do want to address how we are spending those military funds, and then I also want to address health care.

Jacob Foreman: Would you in Congress support ... talk of a policy called the "Green New Deal" ... [to] enact a New Deal kind of economic policy to put Americans to work in clean energy jobs and help to transform our economy?

Absolutely we need to vigorously address infrastructure needs… So we talk a lot about the need to move to say electric vehicles or to move to renewable energies like solar and wind and such. What we don't often remember to talk about is right now our national grid structure is not actually set up to be able to go fully renewable, and we need to invest in the research to have battery storage and transmission lines that will actually be able to accommodate that kind of renewable energy and the output — being able, so like when it is not sunny in an area that you have battery storage such that people can still use active power at the rates that they are accustomed to... We also have to take it a step further. It's not just transportation and energy sectors. It's everything from single-use plastics [to] textile productions.

Pam Lively: Are you prepared to fight an ugly campaign? Because your potential opponent is not a nice person and is backed by dirty money.


I've actually met Sen. Gardner... I have to say, we differ immensely on policy stances and the way that we would probably do things in office, but actually he is a nice person. We had a great chat and his family is wonderful... A lot of people have asked me, actually, “Do you have thick skin?”... And truthfully, I don't. I'm human, just like every other one of you here. And quite frankly, I'm very happy about that. If I don't, if I have skin that is so thick that I'm immune to what anyone says, I don't think I would be a very good representative... I also have spent three years preparing and having conversations on what this would look like. I am definitely aware of the things that happen on campaigns. And that's not the fun part, but I think it's the necessary thing to have to deal with, and I plan to surround myself with people who would help me get past that sort of stuff if we go this route.

Danette Tritch: What do you see as what our health care system's ready for, and what would you be advocating for in terms of health care?

You have a health care system that needs to service over 325 million people. That's a very complex, advanced system and change is not going to happen immediately, and it's one of the things that if we want to actually achieve this, we need to be systematic in approach but still swift in approach… Comprehensive medical programs actually at large have to start with one thing. And it cannot be for-profit on basic medical procedures. It cannot. I've worked in hospitals, you do not have the luxury, if you're having a heart attack, [to say], “Please give me the list of providers for the free-market approach to my health care.” You don't get to do that. So the base and the core value is everyone needs to have access, because we've made that decision already… The emergency department is open for anyone regardless of your ability to pay. Let's do it the economically and more preventative way, right? So let's make sure that everyone has access, and let's make sure that we do it in a way that is thoughtful. And what I mean by that is that it's probably a combination of some of these systems... There's probably an element of single-payer, but with a capitalistic overlay…There's probably an ability to expand Medicare… We want to expand it to things like really strong mental health services, preventative care, eyes… We have a whole team of people ... and we're analyzing some of this information right now, and we're going to roll out a two-, a five-, and a 10-year plan on what this would look like.

Stephany Rose Spaulding (former Democratic House candidate): In the last two years or so our Supreme Court has been hijacked from us. As a member of Congress, do you support the expansion of the Supreme Court, or what alternatives might you propose to level out the Supreme Court? And even other federal courts, because we see it happening still across the board. The decks are stacked.


We're two years out, hypothetically, and there's some things underway that could potentially change what happens between now and then, so it does make that a little more challenging to address what is the best option, say, in 2020. One of the things that I was interested in though is that the [American Bar Association] and a number of lawyers have actually come out against the recent nomination, wondering if that was actually out of character... So I'm curious to see if one of the things that shakes out is whether or not we can actually challenge that particular nomination.

Jillian Freeland: Related to Justice Kavanaugh, can you speak to the MeToo movement, holding our politicians who have been accused of sexual assault accountable?

A lot of people have asked me, what was the thing that ultimately is getting me here… So before MeToo … about a year, year and a half, or something, I actually filed my first harassment and retaliation claim with HR of the place where I was working, and I'd never done that before, and it was terrifying. And the first thing that they told me at HR was, “Are you sure you want to do that? He's a pretty notable person here. He brings in a lot of money.” And I said, “Excuse me?” And then I was actively encouraged not to report. I was actively encouraged to find another job that better suited me... It's actually one of the things that I'm waiting for MeToo to hit, is the academic and medical scene... When I made this file with HR the retaliation actually worsened, and it got to the point where this person had repeatedly told me so many times that I needed to learn my place... About the sixth time he told me to learn my place, and I had this moment when I realized, “Oh my goodness, he's right.” And it clicked. And I went, “It's not working for men like you.” ... That was literally the thing that made me [start] this, because I realized right away, he's right, I shouldn't be working with men like that. Absolutely. Yes to investigations, yes to clearing house, absolutely.
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Monday, November 12, 2018

El Paso County sheriff faces new lawsuit

Posted By on Mon, Nov 12, 2018 at 9:39 AM

Keith Duda and his daughter, Caitlyn, filed a lawsuit on Nov. 9 against El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Keith Duda and his daughter, Caitlyn, filed a lawsuit on Nov. 9 against El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder.
Former El Paso County Sheriff's Sgt. Keith Duda and his daughter, Caitlyn Duda, have filed a federal lawsuit against Sheriff Bill Elder, alleging retaliation against them for reporting incidents that involved Lt. Bill Huffor.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 9, also alleges Elder retaliated against Keith Duda for supporting the campaign of Elder's primary opponent, Mike Angley, though he did not do so on county time. Duda also alleges that Elder fired him after a story appeared in the Independent about the retaliation against him and his daughter.

From the lawsuit:
Keith Duda also spoke to the press as a private citizen about a matter of public concern: unlawful discrimination, retaliation, and political retribution in the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and by EPSO members.

Keith Duda was not acting pursuant to his job duties when he spoke to the press about unlawful discrimination, retaliation, and political retribution in the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and by EPSO members.

Keith Duda’s speech about unlawful discrimination, retaliation, and political retribution in the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and by EPSO members was not personal to him, but was directed to informing the community at large about acts committed by EPSO employees.
We've reached out to the Sheriff's Office for a comment and will update if we hear back.

The Sheriff's Office declined to comment.

Here's the lawsuit:
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Monday, November 5, 2018

Time to vote is now!

Posted By on Mon, Nov 5, 2018 at 9:26 AM

2018electionbug.jpg
Less than half of Colorado's 3.8 million registered voters had cast ballots by the morning of Nov. 5, one day before the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

According to Secretary of State Wayne Williams, 1.5 million voters had cast ballots, with women casting 55,000 more ballots than men and Democrats (519,833) casting about 4,700 more ballots than Republicans (515,131). Voters who are unaffiliated at cast 461,154 votes, Williams report showed.

In El Paso County, 170,519 people had voted by the morning of Nov. 5 with 39,320 Democrats voting, 79,862 Republicans voting and 48,681 unaffiliated voters casting ballots.

The point is, VOTE!

To find out all the details of how you can still vote in this crucial election, go to www.epcvotes.com.

Do not mail your ballot. It's too late for the U.S. Postal Service to guarantee election workers will receive your ballot.
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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Dems, GOP hope to push Colorado Springs to the polls ahead of Election Day

Posted By on Thu, Nov 1, 2018 at 5:06 PM

Ben and Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen, right, scoops ice cream at a campaign event for Stephany Rose Spaulding, left. - MARILYNNE ANDERSON STARR
  • Marilynne Anderson Starr
  • Ben and Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen, right, scoops ice cream at a campaign event for Stephany Rose Spaulding, left.

As one Nov. 1 poll showed enthusiasm growing among registered Republicans and Democrats, Colorado's two major parties prepared to pump up local voters.

Democrats' statewide "Colorado For All Bus Tour," which will make more than 50 stops between its Oct. 23 launch and Election Day, stops in Colorado Springs Nov. 2 for the following events (information from Colorado Democratic Party and Stephany Rose Spaulding's campaign):

March to the Polls at Colorado Springs Voter Service and Polling Center:

• 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
• Hillside Community Center, 925 S. Institute St.
• Speakers include: Lieutenant governor nominee Dianne Primavera, 5th Congressional District nominee Stephany Rose Spaulding, 2nd Congressional District nominee Joe Neguse, Attorney General nominee Phil Weiser, CU Regent At-Large nominee Lesley Smith, Treasurer nominee Dave Young
• RSVP online here.

Colorado Springs Canvass Launch

• 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
• El Paso County Field Office, 506 W. Colorado Ave.
• Speakers include: Primavera, Spaulding, Neguse
• RSVP online here.

Church Rally & Service with Stephany Rose Spaulding

• 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
• Relevant Word Christian Cultural Center, 1040 S Institute St.
• Speakers include: Spaulding, Pastor Promise Lee, NAACP President Rosemary Lytle, Secretary of State nominee Jena Griswold, state Rep. Tony Exum, Primavera, Weiser
• RSVP online here.


Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton trails Democrat Jared Polis by 5 to 8 points in the latest polls. - JEFFERY BEALL WIA WIKIMEDIA.COM
  • Jeffery Beall wia Wikimedia.com
  • Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton trails Democrat Jared Polis by 5 to 8 points in the latest polls.

The Colorado Republican Party is turning up the heat in El Paso County, too. Attorney general candidate George Brauchler and gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton will both speak in Colorado Springs as part of their get-out-the-vote tours, says state GOP spokesperson Daniel Cole. More info below:

George Brauchler

• Friday, Nov. 2 at 1 p.m.
• El Paso County Victory Office, 5145 Centennial Blvd., Suite 101

Walker Stapleton and Rep. Lang Sias

• Monday, Nov. 5 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
• El Paso County Victory Office, 5145 Centennial Blvd., Suite 101
• RSVP online here.

A telephone survey of 500 likely voters, released Nov. 1 by conservative polling firm Magellan Strategies, showed Polis with a 5-point lead over Stapleton, 2 percentage points less than the same firm's survey results three weeks prior. The survey also showed enthusiasm growing among members of both parties — 66 percent of people rated their interest in the election as a 10 on a 10-point scale, compared with 47 percent of respondents Oct. 8.

But the survey, in the interest of consistency, did not account for a slightly lower Republican turnout than what had been expected three weeks ago. And even Magellan's conclusion looks good for Polis: "With less than a week remaining in the 2018 election cycle, the election for Colorado Governor appears to be tightening slightly. However this survey, along with the two prior public surveys we have released this election cycle have consistently measured Jared Polis with a lead of 5 to 7 points. Taking that survey data into account and a real chance that Democrat and unaffiliated turnout will exceed 2014 levels, it is safe to say that Jared Polis has the inside track of becoming the next Governor of Colorado. We shall see."

On the same day, a survey by a liberal consortium that included Keating Research, OnSight Public Affairs and Martin Campaigns showed Polis with an 8-point lead over Stapleton. The survey cites "weak Republican turnout and robust Unaffiliated voter support for Polis (53% vs. 32% for Stapleton)" as factors in Polis' likely victory.

Election watchers note that Republican turnout has taken a dive since the last midterm election.

Over 50,000 fewer Republicans had turned in ballots by Oct. 31 of this year compared with 2014, according to Magellan Strategies. By contrast, almost 40,000 more Democrats had voted by Oct. 31 of this year than Oct. 31 of 2014.

And while in 2014, Republican turnout was 28 percent higher than Democratic turnout as of Oct. 31, elections data from the Secretary of State's office shows Republicans leading by less than 1 percent on Nov. 1 of this year.

COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE
  • Colorado Secretary of State
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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Stephany Rose Spaulding gets Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 10:07 AM

stephany.jpg
When it comes to political campaign merchandise, candidates have pulled out all the stops in recent years to attract meme-happy millennials. Case in point: "I Stand with Rand" flip-flops, the "Chillary Clinton" can holder and the Ted Cruz coloring book.

This year, Ben and Jerry's Homemade founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are going a step further. They came up with unique ice cream flavors for seven progressive candidates running for Congress in partnership with MoveOn.org Political Action, which paid for television ads that feature each candidate and their flavor.

Stephany Rose Spaulding, the candidate for House District 5 running against incumbent Doug Lamborn, is one of the chosen ones.

Her flavor: "Rocky Mountain Rose."


A video caption from MoveOn.org describes the flavor as "Colorado’s own Palisade peaches and pecans, in a light 'care'-amel base."

Cohen and Greenfield are making 40 pints of each ice cream flavor by hand in their home, says Edward Erikson, a consultant who works with Cohen. You can enter to win a pint by texting "ICECREAM" to 668366 or by signing up online to host or attend a campaign event.

Each pint will be signed by Cohen and Greenfield, Erikson says.


It'll take a lot of ice cream to win over all of District 5's Republicans, and Spaulding is definitely the underdog in this race. FiveThirtyEight gave her a 1 in 40 chance of winning, and pollsters consider District 5, where Lamborn's already won six times, an uphill battle for any Democrat.

But Erikson says that's part of the reason she was so appealing to Cohen and Greenfield, who purposely looked for candidates running in places "where we thought we could be most helpful."

"[District 5] is not viewed as being competitive, but looking at that district and looking at the changing demographics in Colorado we think that the math could be turning there," Erikson says. "It might not turn this cycle, but we think it could turn soon. And [Spaulding] is an exceptionally dynamic candidate who we were drawn to and wanted to support."

The other candidates include Jess King of Pennsylvania, Lauren Underwood of Illinois, Aftab Pureval of Ohio, J.D. Scholten of Iowa, Ammar Campa Najjar of California and James Thompson of Kansas.
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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Election Day jitters? It's OK if you don't have your ballot yet

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2018 at 4:49 PM

2018electionbug.jpg
We made a cool Instagram post recently to remind people to vote in the midterm election, and got a couple of comments from some proactive voters. They were wondering why only half of their household's ballots had arrived in the mail.

It sounded worrisome, because the only thing worse than not being able to vote, is not being able to vote while watching a family member vote for the people you don't like. Right?

Turns out, it's too early to worry. Kristi Ridlen, spokesperson for the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office, calls this "a very common issue."

"That happens to a lot of households and to a lot of people, where you’ll get some ballots one day, you’ll get some the next day and then you could get the remaining two days later," Ridlen says. "It’s a mass mailing, pretty much, is what it is, so depending on if it gets shuffled around when they’re processing that mail at the U.S. Postal Service, that tends to happen."

If you don't have your ballot by the end of the day Friday, Oct. 19, and have ensured that your current address is on file by visiting govotecolorado.com, Ridlen says to give her office a call at 719/575-VOTE (8683).
Ballots aren't forward-able, Ridlen notes, so it's important to make sure that your address is updated. The deadline for doing so is Oct. 29.

All ballots must be returned to the Clerk’s Office by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 6, to be counted. (Postmarked ballots received after that won't be counted.)

You can vote in one of three ways:

1) Mail your ballot back with extra postage. Don't just slap a stamp on it — that won't be enough to mail your ballot. Total postage of $0.71 is needed because the ballot is two sheets.

2) Drop it off. A complete list of ballot drop boxes, open 24/7 and under video surveillance, is located here.

3) Vote in person. Voter Service and Polling Centers in El Paso County are listed here. (You can also visit these centers to register to vote, update your address, drop off a ballot or replace a soiled ballot.)

Visit epcvotes.com for more information on the upcoming election.

And if you need a ride, Lyft and Uber are both offering free and discount transportation to polling places on Election Day.

Lyft is distributing promo codes for 50 percent off rides to voting locations, through nonprofits including Vote.org, Nonprofit Vote and TurboVote. The company will offer free rides to underserved communities in partnership with Voto Latino, local Urban League affiliates, the National Federation of the Blind and more. The app will also include a tool to help passengers find a polling location.

Uber will add a "Get to the Polls" button to its app Nov. 6 to help voters find their nearest polling places and quickly book a ride. The company is also working with nonprofits #VoteTogether and Democracy Works to provide free rides to the polls. Those nonprofits will select certain areas, probably those that have a high need from a transportation perspective, and distribute codes that way, Elite Daily reports.
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Monday, October 15, 2018

Tony Wolusky wants to be on University of Colorado's Board of Regents

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2018 at 8:17 AM

Dr. Tony Wolusky - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Dr. Tony Wolusky
After the Indy endorsements were released this week, we received a lot of email and phone calls.
There were a few thank yous in there, along with some complaints, and a few candidates disappointed that we hadn't made an endorsement in their race.

We've said it before and we'll say it again: It was a very long ballot this year, and we just couldn't  examine every race.

Still, one call stood out. Dr. Tony Wolusky, the Democrat running for University of Colorado Board of Regents in District 5 (that's us) said he had been frustrated by the lack of attention on the race — especially since it was such a key role when it comes to controlling student debt.

OK, you got us Wolusky. We're pretty sympathetic to that issue. It's hard not to be considering how the heavy burden of debt steers a young person's life and opportunities. Plus the nine-member regent board, long dominated by Republicans, does a lot of important things like pick the next president of the CU system, for instance, and approve the budget, set policies, determine degree programs and (important to Wolusky's point) decide whether to raise, lower or freeze tuition.

While we still aren't endorsing in the race, we agreed to meet and talk with Wolusky about his race against Republican Chance Hill, and we encourage you to learn more about your regent candidates.

Here are a few things Wolusky wanted to point out:
• Big student debt loads (the average in Colorado in 2017 was estimated to be $26,095 by the Congress & Student Debt report) take young people years to pay off and create a lot of emotional pressure in their lives. Wolusky, who teaches at several colleges, has had students at Pikes Peak Community College who couldn't afford textbooks and says about half his students at Metropolitan State University of Denver are single moms. Food insecurity is incredibly common among his students. The CU system, he says, doesn't need to cost students so much. Perhaps it could cut back on salaries, some of which are near $1 million (and that isn't including the multimillion dollar contract given to CU's head coach).
He adds that the system spends too much on "prestige projects," such as huge figures expended on marketing, when it could use that money to help students. CU ranks 48th nationally in state funding for higher education. "They do a lot of things," he says, "that I think are a way to pat yourself on the back."
If the system could cut back on such expenses, he says, perhaps it could at least freeze tuition for a year instead of raising it. The system might also be able to offer students with heavy course loads some free classes each semester.

• Wolusky is a big proponent of diversity in the system. He notes that many young minority students are priced out of the system. That's a particular shame, he says, because one of the most enriching part of college should be learning about, and befriending people, who are different than you.

• Stopping sex assault on campus has to be a major priority, Wolusky says. He thinks we should educate students within the first month, focusing particularly on men. Wolusky says that in his time as an attorney he saw how deeply scarred victims of sexual assault are and wants to do whatever he can to prevent it.

• Wolusky says the current regents spend too much time on political issues, saying he's witnessed them discussing the need to classify conservative students as "minorities" and offer them the same support as, say, students of color. Another time, he says, the regents spent a long time talking about how to take the word " liberal" out of liberal arts.
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs - THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT COLORADO SPRINGS
  • The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
  • The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Here are a few things you should know about Wolusky's background:
• He went to the Air Force Academy and served in the Air Force for 28 years, even teaching at the AFA as an Associate Professor of Law and serving as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for the Superintendent before retiring from active duty in Colorado Springs in 2004.

• He has five degrees: A bachelor's in public administration and international relations, a master's in education, a master's in international relations, a juris doctorate and a Ph.D. in education. (In contrast, Sue Sharkey, the current chair of the Board of Regents, which oversees the entire CU system, doesn't have any degree.)

• He teaches and has taught at many colleges including current stints at Pikes Peak Community College and Metropolitan State University of Denver.

• He's an attorney with 30 years experience who has served both as a deputy district attorney and a public defender.

• He has four daughters and a grandson.
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Friday, October 5, 2018

Sheriff Bill Elder will be "more than done" after his next term

Posted By on Fri, Oct 5, 2018 at 4:29 PM

Elder: Not looking for a third term. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Elder: Not looking for a third term.
It's apparently been a rough four years for El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, who's seeking a second term in the Nov. 6 election.

Elder, a Republican, is a shoo-in for another four years, because the county is dominated by Republican voters. But a recent email exchange with a subordinate (obtained by the Indy through an open records request) makes it sound like he's not crazy about the job he's in.

On Aug. 29, Lt. Charles Kull sent an email to Elder saying he's thinking about running for sheriff after Elder's term is over. "That is of course unless you go back to a three term limit and you decide to run again," Kull says, adding that he would support him.

(Former Sheriff Terry Maketa served three terms after voters allowed a third term. But later, voters rescinded a third term for the sheriff, so Elder is eligible for only two, four-year terms unless voters again reverse the two-term limit.)

Elder's response, sent 40 minutes after Kull's message: "Dude, I will be more than done at the end of this 4 years and am not even considering an extension. We should talk."

Although Kull followed up by asking for a meeting, Sheriff's Office spokesperson Jackie Kirby says no such meeting took place.

Asked about the messages being sent on official government email, Kirby says via email, "The sending of an email expressing a desire to run for political office is not against policy. It is actually quite appropriate for someone within the Sheriff’s Office who is considering running for the position to inform the Sheriff."

Kull had a memory lapse last year while testifying at Maketa's trial, which didn't result in a conviction.

We asked Deputy County Attorney Diana May if it was appropriate for Kull to include a Bible verse on his official county email. She says via email: "Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The quote on the bottom of Lieutenant Kull’s email has been addressed and rectified."

Elder's Democratic opponent in the Nov. 6 election is Grace Sweeney-Maurer.

Here's the email exchange:
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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Stephany Rose Spaulding talks gun safety with Moms Demand Action founder

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2018 at 4:19 PM

House District 5 candidate Stephany Rose Spaulding, left, and Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts. - COURTESY OF STEPHANY ROSE FOR CONGRESS
  • Courtesy of Stephany Rose for Congress
  • House District 5 candidate Stephany Rose Spaulding, left, and Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts.
Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and Stephany Rose Spaulding, the Democrat hoping to unseat Rep. Doug Lamborn, say they often cry when they're together.

A Sept. 25 town hall featuring the pair at Colorado College was no exception. The tears flowed more than once during a conversation about gun safety, local politics and the importance of intersectionality in activism.

Spaulding and Watts both addressed the idea that they're fighting respective uphill battles: Spaulding in a Republican district that's easily elected Lamborn six times, and Watts in a legislative landscape that has long been shaped by the powerful gun lobby.

Spaulding, a licensed minister and associate professor of women's and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, said she decided to run for Congress after attending the Women's March in Washington.

"This is not the easiest district to be an African-American woman who is progressive and a pastor," Spaulding said. "...So what if it's hard? Life is hard!...In life we don't get to back down just because it is hard and there are roadblocks."

Spaulding recalled that some had asked her why she didn't want to enter a local race instead, perhaps for a seat on City Council or the Board of County Commissioners.

"We do not tell white boys who wake up in the morning and scratch themselves not to run for whatever office," she pointed out to laughter.

Watts' involvement in politics was also born of a single defining event: After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, she founded Moms Demand Action to demand "common-sense" gun reforms. The organization now has chapters in all 50 states.

Watts acknowledged that despite polling that shows a shift in American attitudes about the Second Amendment, it's hard to overcome groups such as the National Rifle Association that have for decades donated to politicians' campaigns and given them favorable ratings in exchange for legislation that benefits gun manufacturers.

"Until we get the right president and Congress in place, we'll be playing defense with federal legislation," Watts said, adding that a ban on assault rifles, while an eventual goal, was not currently a priority for her organization. In the meantime, though, Moms Demand Action has defeated "dangerous" bills in many states that would have allowed guns in schools, eliminated background checks, and more, she said. 

Besides pushing for legislation such as "red-flag" laws and bump-stock bans, and opposing efforts by the NRA to make guns easier to get, Moms Demand Action also endorses candidates at the local and national level — including Spaulding.

Spaulding's choice to hold a campaign event on gun violence could be characterized as daring, in a county that in 2013 passed a resolution defying Obama-era gun control orders, in 2014 allowed guns in parks, and whose representative has received NRA ratings that consistently top 90 percent.

But Spaulding, who grew up on the south side of Chicago and saw gun violence affect her own family — both her brother and niece were held at gunpoint — says she doesn't oppose Americans' right to own firearms.

"I'm not against the Second Amendment," Spaulding said. "We have eroded the responsibility around what it means to be owners of firearms." She added that she feels there's been a shift in popular sentiment in Colorado Springs around gun ownership, with more residents here desiring reforms like those championed by Moms Demand Action.

"It's not about being anti-gun, it's really about, 'How do we make things safer?'"
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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

To end gerrymandering, bipartisan group asks voters to approve reforms

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2018 at 4:38 PM

Heidi Ganahl, Joe Zimlich, Kent Thiry and Sen. Bob Gardner at an event for Fair Maps Colorado. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Heidi Ganahl, Joe Zimlich, Kent Thiry and Sen. Bob Gardner at an event for Fair Maps Colorado.

An unlikely group of allies has banded together to support a pair of ballot initiatives that could have a lasting impact on Colorado's political scene.

Amendments Y and Z, supported by Fair Maps Colorado, would transform the redistricting process for congressional and state legislative districts in order to prevent gerrymandering. That's the practice by which the majority party is allowed to redraw districts. No surprises here: That party usually draws districts that favor its candidates.

The term gerrymander dates to 1812 — so this has been going on for quite a while, though courts do sometimes decide a party has gone too far and order the districts redrawn in a more fair manner. What these Colorado initiatives aim to do, however, is radical: Take the power of redrawing districts away from the ruling party and ensure those districts are drawn fairly (which means in a way that leads to more competitive races).
The change in process for drawing congressional districts would be especially relevant by 2020, when Colorado is projected to gain a House seat, according to Election Data Services.

Kent Thiry, the CEO of DaVita Inc. and co-chair of Fair Maps Colorado, was joined by Toni Larson, president of the League of Women Voters of Colorado; Heidi Ganahl, University of Colorado Regent; Joe Zimlich, CEO of the Bohemian Group; and state Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, for a brief, but enthusiastic campaign stop outside the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum supporting the two ballot initiatives.

"This is about fairness, it’s about our future, it’s about holding our elected officials accountable, and it’s about proportional representation, the sacred principle of democracy," Thiry said. (Thiry, a centrist political donor, is known for his eclectic management style at DaVita — which has included such antics as somersaulting across a stage in medieval garb at company meetings. He also considered a gubernatorial run this year, but decided against it.)

Amendments Y and Z, which were approved for the ballot unanimously in both chambers of the state legislature, would create two independent commissions in charge of redistricting. They would be composed of 12 members each: four Republicans, four Democrats, and four unaffiliated.

"Over the last decade, we have seen congressional deadlock and have watched as other states struggle with gamesmanship and courtroom battles, all due to gerrymandering," Larson said. "With Y and Z, we can clear out the smoke-filled back rooms with a little bit of Colorado sunshine."
"The Gerry-Mander" is a classic political cartoon drawn in 1812 depicting the bizarre districts drawn to favor the incumbent Democratic-Republican party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry. - ELKANAH TISDALE
  • Elkanah Tisdale
  • "The Gerry-Mander" is a classic political cartoon drawn in 1812 depicting the bizarre districts drawn to favor the incumbent Democratic-Republican party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry.

Republicans Ganahl and Gardner took turns at the podium with Democrat Zimlich and independents Thiry and Larson. They used similar language to describe the ballot measures, implying support across the political spectrum is for shared reasons: The need to "hold politicians accountable" and end gerrymandering.

Because they are constitutional amendments, the twin initiatives need 55 percent of the vote to pass. They have no formal opposition, and Thiry thinks the prospects are bright.

"Gerrymandering has always existed, but it’s grown in intensity," he said, when an attendee mentioned the ongoing fight in Pennsylvania over whether Republicans drew districts to unfairly benefit their party. "[The amendments have] really been prompted by the fact that the cancer has grown."
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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Seven initiative petitions could make it on the ballot this fall

Posted By on Wed, Aug 8, 2018 at 5:26 PM

PUBLIC DOMAIN PICTURES
  • Public Domain Pictures

Seven initiative petitions were turned in on time for a chance at the November ballot in Colorado, the Secretary of State's Office announced Aug. 6.

Initiative backers had to gather at least 98,492 signatures, or 5 percent of the total votes cast for all candidates for secretary of state in the 2014 general election.

Over the next 30 days, the Secretary of State's Office will review the petitions to ensure they meet state standards. Those that do will go to voters Nov. 6.

The seven petitions include:

Initiative 97 (statute change): Setback requirement for oil and gas development

"All new oil and gas development not on federal land must be located at least [2,500] feet from an occupied structure or vulnerable area."

The initiative's backer, Colorado Rising, says signature gatherers faced intimidation and harassment. But its problems didn't stop there. One of the initiative's signature-gathering firms took 15,000 signatures out of state three weeks before the deadline, and a second firm was paid off to stop collecting signatures, Colorado Rising says. Despite those setbacks (pun unintended), 171,000 signatures were submitted by deadline.

Initiative 126 (statute change): Payday loans

"Lower the maximum authorized finance charge for payday loans to an annual percentage rate of [36] percent." Currently, the maximum charges are $20 for the first $300 loaned, 7.5 percent of any amount over $300, and a 45 percent interest rate.

The Denver Post reports that initiative backers gathered nearly 190,000 signatures.

Initiative 153 (statute change): Transportation funding

Increase state sales tax from 2.91 percent to 3.52 percent, in order to fund up to $6 billion in bonds for construction and maintenance of roads, bridges and highways. The initiative requires "45% of the new revenue to fund state transportation safety, maintenance, and congestion-related projects; 40% to fund municipal and county transportation projects; and 15% to fund multimodal transportation projects, including bike, pedestrian, and transit infrastructure."

Organizers collected about 198,000 signatures, the Post reports.

Initiative 167 (statute change): Authorize bonds for transportation projects

Use existing state revenues to purchase $3.5 billion in bonds for road and bridge construction and improvements. Mayor John Suthers, who opposes Initiative 153, has been a vocal supporter of this initiative, titled "Fix Our Damn Roads," which does not include a tax increase.

Backers turned in more than 150,000 signatures, according to the Post.

Initiative 173 (constitutional amendment): Campaign contributions

This "anti-Jared Polis" measure limits candidates' ability to fund their own campaigns: If a candidate "directs more than [$1 million] to support his or her election, then all candidates in the same election shall be entitled to accept aggregate contributions for a primary and general election at five times the [normally allowed] rate."

The Post reports that backers gathered 212,000 signatures.

Initiative 108 (constitutional amendment): Just compensation for reduction in fair market value by government law or regulation

Requires the government to pay compensation to private property owners when new laws or regulations reduce a property's fair market value. This is a response to Initiative 97, which could reduce the value of property that, per the initiative's requirements, could no longer be used for oil and gas development.

Organizers collected 209,000 signatures, the Post reports.

Initiative 93 (constitutional amendment): Funding for public schools

Increase state taxes by $1.6 billion to "improve, support and enhance" preschool through high school "programs, resources and opportunities." The money will come from an incremental income tax increase for people making more than $150,000 (using four tax brackets, starting at 0.37 percent and increasing to 3.62 percent for income over $500,000); and a corporate tax rate increase of 1.37 percent.

Backers turned in about 179,000 signatures, the Post reports.
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