From parks to personhood, issues facing El Paso County voters cover all sorts of ground 


Last week, we endorsed candidates for local and statewide offices in the Nov. 4 election. This week, with ballots being mailed, our editorial board weighs a number of propositions, amendments and questions — and finds some sound and some wanting.

County Question 1A

A "yes" vote will allow El Paso County to retain just over $2 million in tax revenue in excess of Taxpayer's Bill of Rights limits, to fund work on parks. A "no" vote would mean the money would be returned to property tax payers, who would each get an $8.41 credit.

In other words, do you want to improve parks for everyone — some of the few common spaces we have free of commerce — for some time to come, or would you rather get the price of a six-pack, once?

If the money is kept, all of it is earmarked (see "Parks and taxation,"). Some will go to Jones Park for restoration if the county obtains that park from the city, and some to other projects, including park maintenance that has been deferred since the recession. Parks will be expanded in areas that have grown, and repairs will be made to parks that were damaged in fires, such as in the Black Forest area, and in floods, such as around Bear Creek.

Attention, shoppers: That's a lot of bang for the buck.

Vote yes.

County Question 1B

A "yes" vote means funding for a package of measures to improve stormwater infrastructure and maintenance, raising a maximum of about $39 million annually through fees assessed to property owners averaging $7.70 a month. It would create the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority, in which the city, the county, Manitou Springs, Fountain and Green Mountain Falls would participate.

This is a detailed and wisely regional approach to mitigating the effects of flooding. Years of effort have gone into getting it to this point, with citizen and expert involvement.

And now you have your say. Contrary to its opponents' claims, no one's imposing it on anyone.

Opponents call it a tax, proponents say it's a fee, but, tangerine, nectarine — the point is you have a chance to step up here and recognize that since floodwaters have no respect for borders, our wisest move is to deal with them using a regional plan.

When it rains, we all get wet. 1B tries to make it less likely that some of us get drenched.

Vote yes.

County Question 1C

The question here is whether the county sheriff shall be limited to two four-year terms, rather than the current three, like most other elected county officials. Bill Elder, the incoming sheriff, says he favors it.

We don't think term limits are the magic pill to fix whatever ails our democracy, but we have nothing against them, either. And in this case, the foibles of three-term Sheriff Terry Maketa make it hard to advise against a measure that might keep a future sheriff from getting too comfortable in office.

Vote yes.

Manitou Springs Question 2G

This question asks Manitou voters to weigh in on whether to ban retail recreational marijuana in Manitou Springs, where it just recently began to be sold at one shop, Maggie's Farm.

When Colorado voters enacted Amendment 64, making recreational marijuana and its sale legal, it may not have been a one-and-you're-done deal. We can accept that a burden remains on proponents of this measure to show that it can bring about more harm than good. But early indications are that locally, RMJ sales are a success, most obviously in terms of the tax revenue that Manitou (as well as the state) can derive from it: Maggie's Farm's recreational shop says it's generated about $223,000 in taxes for the city in its first nine weeks.

Is pot completely safe? No, probably not; but what is? We don't understand the political philosophy that leads people to continue arguing against the sale of recreational pot, but not alcohol. Besides, if pot sales don't belong in Manitou, where in Colorado do they belong?

Vote no.

Palmer Lake Question 300

This asks Palmer Lake voters whether recreational pot can be sold in Palmer Lake. It was voted on once before and defeated, although there was some question about the accuracy of that balloting. (According to one resident and attorney working on the pro-cannabis campaign, 300 ballots accidentally mailed to the wrong address were returned to City Hall unopened.)

So let's do it again: Judging from the way things have gone in other RMJ-selling cities, the risks are low, and Palmer Lake needs the money that recreational marijuana sales could bring. It needs money just to fill its namesake lake, for Pete's sake.

Vote yes.

Palmer Lake Question 301

This asks Palmer Lake voters to ban any vote to allow the sale of recreational pot for at least three years, a ban that then could only be undone by another ballot question. Even if you didn't support allowing RMJ sales now, why would you vote to make it so difficult for the community to change its mind in the future?

Vote no.

Amendment 67

This asks whether "unborn human beings" shall be considered as persons or children in the state criminal code. It's also known as "personhood," an attempt to carve out a loophole in Roe v. Wade, essentially; to criminalize a woman's reproductive choices.

We could ask why voters would want to do this, but we already know they don't; similar measures were defeated in 2008 and 2010, each time with more than 70 percent of Coloradans voting against.

Proponents will argue that this measure is different. But those differences are negligible, and as explained in a recent news story ("Personhood by any other name" News, Oct. 1), they would not prevent Amendment 67 from causing a cascade of strange and disturbing legal consequences.

Some people just can't mind their own business.

Vote no.

Amendment 68

This seeks to amend the state constitution in order to allow casino gambling at one horse track in Arapahoe County, with the possibility of two more, one each in Mesa and Pueblo counties, which its backers say would bring up to as much as $114 million in taxes dedicated to education. It creates a monopoly on such gambling in Arapahoe now.

If would-be out-of-state monopolists are truly concerned with educating Colorado's children, great. But before we look to them and line their pockets, perhaps we could learn to better tax ourselves.

Vote no.

Proposition 104

This changes Colorado statutes to require that any school meeting where collective bargaining takes place shall be open to the public. Though our editorial board could not achieve unanimity on a "yes" or "no," we did achieve a majority. And we all agreed that the ultimate object here seems to be to try to disrupt the negotiating practices of the state's teachers unions.

Proposition 104 seeks to make some workings of government more transparent, and that's almost always a good thing. If, for example, its proponents could make the Colorado Open Records Act stronger by setting better records retention requirements and ensuring uniform compliance, we would love them for a long time, even if they were the lackeys of the Koch brothers.

But to single out teachers unions alone, as this seems to do, feels like a stealth attack on what we all know is the greatest threat to our welfare: high school algebra teachers.

"I'm not aware of a single newspaper that has opined against [this] measure and the transparency it will bring," backer Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute boasted in a recent email.

Not so fast there, pal.

Vote no.

Proposition 105

For our thoughts on this issue, regarding GMO labeling, click here.

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