Voters open wallets, show faith in government
November 3, 2005
By passing nearly every tax-oriented question on the ballot Tuesday, Pitkin County voters made it clear they have a lot of trust in their public institutions and elected officials. This is something to recognize and applaud.Voters agreed to pay for a new middle school and a portion of the Aspen Historical Society’s annual operating costs. They let the city of Aspen keep about $3 million a year in property taxes that would otherwise be returned to them under the Colorado Constitution’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights amendment. They allowed the school district to keep about $700,000 a year to boost teacher salaries and fund educational programs. And they extended for another five years a property tax to support Aspen Valley Hospital.The only government body that didn’t get everything it asked for was Snowmass Village, where voters rejected a plan to borrow money for a new town hall.There was ample and sometimes acrimonious debate on some of these issues. The Aspen Times was skeptical about some of them and recommended “no” votes on two questions. In the end, however, voters educated themselves and chose to open their wallets for projects, organizations and causes they deemed worthy.This demonstrates an increasingly rare kind of understanding between public officials and the electorate.In these cynical times, Tuesday’s election results speak well of this community. They speak well of the citizens who devote time and energy to our governing institutions. Most locals trust their city council members, county commissioners, school district officials and hospital board members to do the right thing with their tax dollars.Hopefully, elected officials and staffers in the governments and institutions that won on Nov. 1 will continue the good governance that has earned the voters’ trust, exercising careful judgment and financial prudence. This kind of trust doesn’t come easily.