An old pal of mine, a dedicated party animal, used to refer to any good party as a "goat rope." A really good party might be described as "an all-time goat rope." It's a great phrase, and one that seems to fit the fevered politics of our fair state.

Come November, the voters will have the privilege of deciding half a dozen important issues, thanks to the promoters of various initiatives.

Shall we try to restrain sprawl, however mildly? Shall the right to abortion be further restricted? Shall the use of marijuana for medical purposes be permitted? Shall the gun-show loophole be closed? Shall taxes be significantly reduced? It's up to us.

Whatever you, or I, may think about any of these initiatives, they attack significant, important and controversial issues head-on, issues that our elected representatives at every level have simply refused to deal with.

Take the Bruce-authored Amendment 21 (the cleverly named TaxCut 2000), for example. As this column pointed out a couple of months ago, the amendment would effectively erase the tax-collecting authority of hundreds of entities -- library districts, fire protection districts, small cities and the like.

And what would happen? Clearly, the state would have to fund most of the services that the districts now provide. Might this not be both more efficient and more equitable? I doubt it, but we need to realize that TaxCut 2000 is, in fact, a stealthy and audacious attempt to utterly change the state's tax structure.

And let's look at Amendment 24, which attempts, in its mild and tentative way, to introduce regional land-use planning to Colorado. Developers, tough-minded, cantankerous, and instinctively opposed to government regulation of any kind, fiercely oppose 24. That's to be expected; just as a dog would rather run free on the trail, a developer would rather not have another set of laws to comply with.

But even the most cynical observers of local government have been surprised by the enthusiasm with which our elected representatives have joined the anti-24 gang. After all, a little show of independence often works in a politician's favor. Nevertheless, not a single elected official in El Paso County supports Amendment 24, not even those who ran for office promising to rein in sprawl, preserve open space and work for better land-use decisions.

If you ask 'em why, they'll pull out a little crib sheet that the amendment's well-funded opponents have helpfully supplied and rattle off a list of reasons.

But let's consider 24's real impact.

By turning over important land-use decisions to the voters, the amendment effectively strips Council of their most significant power. It'll end forever the quiet, deadly serious business whereby a few dozen people -- mostly rich, middle-aged white men -- decide the city's future.

In the long history of our city, the voters have never had a direct voice in shaping the nature and direction of its growth and change. The prospect that we, the people, might be making decisions that have been the province of the elite for over a century fills the present members of that elite group with dread.

Anyone who runs for Council, or for any office, does so because he or she wants to become one of the elite group of decision-makers. After all, there are only two paths to that kind of power: work like hell for 25 years, like Dave Jenkins, and become a powerful developer, or spend a few months running for office, and, if you're lucky, cruise on in through the back door.

So while politicians are positively grateful to the proponents of the abortion, gun-show loophole, and medical marijuana initiatives (saves 'em from having to go on record for or against), they hate TaxCut 2000 and Amendment 24.

If they were honest, here's what they'd say: "Goddamnit, I got elected, not you. I get to run things, not you. If you think things are bad now, wait and see how bad they'll be when stupid you and all your stupid friends try to run things!"

Frankly, I can hardly wait. And if our elected officials are made deathly ill by the prospect, maybe they'd qualify for some of that medical marijuana.

Now that would be one hellacious goat rope...

-- johnhazlehurst@aol.com


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