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The Aspen Times endorsements

Aspen Times Staff Report

Local voters will be facing a blizzard of ballot questions and candidates when they walk into the voting booth on Nov. 7.As it traditionally has done for decades, the editorial board of The Aspen Times is this week publishing its endorsements regarding a variety of the local and state races and issues. Further endorsements, in certain state races and for the Town Council candidates in Snowmass Village, will be published in the Nov. 3 editions.Readers may notice that not all of the initiatives and referenda on the ballot are mentioned here.Some are left out because they pertain to very small, special taxation districts, and typically the relatively small number of residents affected already know the issues and how they will be voting.Others are omitted for the opposite reason. In contests such as, say, the race for U.S. President, our small contribution to the broad debate would be superfluous.To conclude, here is this newspaper’s take on Election 2000 (part one): Pitkin County Commissioner District 3: Shellie Roy Harper The incumbent is the best choice in this race. This newspaper has disagreed with her stands on issues from time to time, particularly regarding issues that have to do with preservation of this county’s rural character and community values. But she is clearly a middle-of-the-road political figure, with considerable experience in dealing with the tangle of puzzles and controversies that the county is faced with, and as such she is preferable to the untried, potentially disruptive views of her opponent. Pitkin County Commissioner District 4: Jack Hatfield This is a tough race to call.On the one hand, John Young seems to be an excellent candidate. He is acknowledged as a strong advocate of affordable housing and supporter of such controversial issues as the county’s house-size caps. In addition, his demeanor indicates he would be an attentive listener and considerate, perhaps moderating influence on the board. But his history in the private sector, representing W/J developer John Musick, has generated skepticism about his true motives. Still, we have a great deal of respect for Mr. Young.Jack Hatfield, on the other hand, obviously holds the edge over his opponent in terms of experience. Granted, he also is somewhat erratic in his political attitudes and positions, and if elected will undoubtedly add to what many complain is already too much divisiveness and uncivil behavior at county board meetings.Our support for Mr. Hatfield is tempered with the sincere hope that he will manage to grow up and get some control over his erratic behavior and his temper. We need his intelligence, his abilities and his political philosophy on the board. We most certainly do not need another loose cannon.We must, finally, note that, when he ran for this same office in 1996, Mr. Hatfield was endorsed by the Common Sense Alliance. Thus, we are led to believe that he will be acceptable across a wide spectrum of political philosophies. Pitkin County Commissioner District 5: Dorothea Farris Once again, experience should win out over the desire for new blood on the county board. Farris is a tried and true advocate of community values, affordable housing and preservation of our rural open spaces. She has shown her mettle in making the hard choices in everything from land use to transportation issues.She has been an excellent county commissioner and she most certainly deserves to be kept in office. Pitkin County Ballot QuestionsVote “Yes” on Referendum 1A (Transit Revenue Bonds) We need to finish the Entrance to Aspen, and if this is the quickest way to do it without raising taxes, so be it. It’s complicated, and there is no absolute certainty it will work, but it’s worth a try. Vote “Yes” on Referendum 1B (Opt Out of Growth Initiative) Amendment 24 is worthy of support, but the fact is that Pitkin County is already far ahead of the rest of the state in terms of growth controls. So opting out (for four years, at least) of what could easily become a statewide battle only makes sense. Vote “Yes” on Referendum 1C (Commissioners’ Pay Raise) Being a Pitkin County Commissioner is a demanding job – to say the least. Our commissioners have been working for substandard pay for too long. We owe it to them to at least pay them as well as other commissioners around Colorado. Vote “Yes” on Referendum 1D (Term Limits – Clerk & Recorder) The job of being a clerk and recorder for this county is complicated and demanding, and it takes some time to get up to speed with the work. Term limits mean that every eight years, we have to spend a couple of years retraining someone new. Approving this ballot question will bring Pitkin County in line with other enlightened counties that have eliminated useless and damaging term limits for certain elective offices. Vote “Yes” on Referendum 1E (Term Limits – Assessor) See explanation for 1D, but insert “assessor” where it says “clerk and recorder.” Vote “Yes” on Referendum 1F (Term limits – Sheriff) Just as it is with the clerk, and the assessor, so it is with the sheriff. There was a time when the sheriff’s position was far more political in nature, and might have justified term limits. But these days it is essentially a technical position, just as are the clerk’s and assessor’s jobs. And, to get specific about it, our current sheriff is doing a fine job and should not be forcibly ousted in 2002 because voters in other parts of Colorado don’t feel the same way about their sheriffs. When it comes right down to it, we have the most practical kind of term limits in place anyway – quadrennial elections, in which we can rid ourselves of unwanted public officials and bring in new blood. Vote “Yes” on Referendum 3A (AHS Expansion & Renovation) OK, $41 million is a lot of money. But it’s not out of line with what other resort towns are having to pay to remodel, expand or rebuild their schools. And if there is any area where we should not be miserly, it is in providing our children the best facility we possibly can for their education. Aspen is a first-rate community, it deserves a first-rate high school. Despite the seemingly high price tag, the actual annual cost to property owners of this new school will be quite affordable. Once again, our commitment to education is our commitment to the future and to our community. Vote “Yes” on Referendum 4A (CMC De-Brucing) This is a way to increase the financial security of Colorado Mountain College without having our taxes raised. It’s the smart thing to do. Vote “Yes” on 4B (RTA) It is about time we set up a multi-jurisdictional district to handle the Roaring Fork Valley’s mass transit needs. A valleywide transportation authority should have been created 20 years ago, and if it had we would probably not have the annual hand-wringing debates about the fate of the Roaring Fork Transit Agency bus service. Mass transit is a regional issue. Everybody benefits, and everybody should pay to keep it solvent. And, although it is ludicrous to have to say it, the formation of the RTA is not some conspiratorial first step toward building a train between Glenwood Springs and Aspen. It is for the buses. City of Aspen Ballot QuestionsVote “Yes” on 2A (Bed Tax) There is something unsettling about using public money to provide a marketing fund for the resort, and there is some truth to the argument that we are pricing ourselves out of business with every added fee and tax. Still, such taxes are a standard source of funds throughout the industry, and Aspen could use a boost in this regard. It should also be noted that half the proceeds of this tax will be used toward the city’s share of the funding for the Roaring Fork Transit Authority, which will help improve mass transit throughout the valley. So this is a doubly beneficial tax. Vote “Yes” on Referendum 2B (Open Space Tax) This money is needed if we want to properly maintain the open spaces, trails and parks that we’ve got, as well as acquire more. It will allow the city to borrow money for emergency or unexpected needs, and expire in 25 years unless the voters reauthorize it. It is a good idea. Vote “Yes” on Referendum 2C (De-Brucing for Recreational Facilities) This money will be used to help pay for new facilities at Iselin Park, including a swimming pool complex and a relocated youth center. Aspen’s public recreation facilities have long lacked the quality we deserve, and since the revenue involved here is from taxes we are already paying, it seems like a good use of resources. Vote “No” on Referendum 2D (Bass Park) This “no” vote is a vote in favor of building affordable housing on Bass Park. We have said before that Bass Park, which the city bought early in 1999 for $3.44 million, should be used for housing. It’s a nice little park, and has afforded any number of happy days to the few who have used it. But that is an awful lot to spend on a park that most people in town can’t even identify. And if we don’t built a project at this site, where it makes sense in so many ways, where will we build it? Vote “Yes” on Referendum 2E (Truscott redevelopment) The city has the plans in place to start the redevelopment of Truscott Place and the Municipal Golf Course property, and all that is needed now is voter permission to sell the land involved to the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority. The project will be a major boon to the local stock of affordable housing, and the golf course improvements are a community benefit. Vote “Yes” on Referendum 2F (Run-off Elections) This is a good idea for Aspen, since our elections have become so fractious of late, although it would seem to be more critical for the mayor’s office than the council seats. The mayor, at least, should be elected with a clear majority of the electorate. Otherwise, critics can complain endlessly of a “lack of a voter mandate” and the mayor’s positions always seem more precarious. Vote “Yes” on Referendum 4C (Basalt RTA funds) This question is for Basalt residents only. It should be noted that Basalt, as much as any other town, depends heavily on the buses of RFTA to keep its workers moving up and down the valley. And if this is the best way Basalt can come up with to pay its fair share of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, it certainly makes sense to pass it, and get on the bus. Vote “Yes” on Referendum 4F (Basalt Sanitation Dist.) We all need to make sure our water and sanitation facilities are up to par, and every now and then this requires the expenditure of a bit of cash to make improvements to the systems. And it is best for all to understand that it is not a good idea to delay such things, because any delay inevitably means we end up paying more for the same improvements. State of Colorado Ballot Questions Vote “Yes” on Amendment 21 (Medical Marijuana) This is quite simply a matter of humanitarian acknowledgement of the palliative values of an ancient medicinal herb. The list of ailments on which marijuana can have a positive, pain-relieving effect is long. The idea that it cannot be prescribed by doctors is outrageous. Vote “No” on Amendment 21 (Tax Cut 2000) Once again, Colorado Springs’ Douglas Bruce has proposed a constitutional amendment that will have massively disruptive effects on a wide range of vital services in Colorado, ranging from schools to ambulance districts. This is a bad-faith attempt to hamstring government, and should be rejected. Vote “Yes” on Amendment 22 (Closing the Gun Show Loophole) At its simplest, this amendment is intended to close a loophole in Colorado’s gun registration statutes, by requiring background checks for buyers at gun shows. Law-abiding gun buyers should have no problem with this amendment. The only people who could be harmed by it are criminals. Vote “Yes” on Amendment 23 (School Funding) Providing adequate education for our children is an investment in the future of our society, and we must not stint in this regard. There can be no doubt that this money is needed. And while the idea of incorporating fiscal policy details in the constitution is troublesome, the fact is that the legislature has failed to do its job regarding educational funding. So we are left with little choice but to take this path. This measure simply says that funding for education must increase to meet inflation. Vote “Yes” on Amendment 24 (Responsible Growth) Once again, we have the troublesome necessity of altering the state constitution to address a persistent failure by the state legislature, which has been steadfastly ignoring the need to control rampant growth throughout the state. Because something must be done soon, rather than later; because the state’s citizens have been clamoring for action; and because local governments obviously will not act without a mandate from the state – for all these reasons we must approve this amendment, despite its flaws. Vote “No” on Amendment 25 (Abortion Waiting Period) This is simply another effort by abortion opponents to limit a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, despite the fact that national polls show that some 70 percent of U.S. voters support that right. Vote “Yes” on Referendum A (“Homestead” Tax Exemption) This change to Article X of the state constitution would give some property tax relief for elderly property owners who have lived in their homes for a decade. Our elderly residents have certainly earned that break. Vote “Yes” on Referendum B (Redistricting) This is a minor detail, and it might actually mean that by taking more time to work on legislative redistricting our general assembly can do a better job on the task. Vote “Yes” on Referendum C (Appointed Surveyors) This referendum has no effect whatsoever on Pitkin County, which as a home rule county is not required to have a county surveyor. In Eagle and Garfield counties, however, it can have the effect of permitting the appointment of a surveyor without having to wait and see if anyone is interested in running for election for the job. Vote “Yes” on Referendum D (Outdated Provisions) This is a house-keeping measure, and our constitution will be better off for the elimination of these outdated, unnecessary provisions, clauses and articles. Vote “No” on Referendum E (Multi-state Lotteries) State governments should not be in the gambling business, period. Vote “Yes” on Referendum F (School Grants) Along the same lines as the school funding question endorsed above, this measure ensures that for the coming five years, money collected as tax revenues can be spent on meaningful scholastic programs, rather than being frittered away in tax rebates or directed to questionable projects.


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