Aspen Times Editorial: The Aspen Times’ election picks
October 23, 2015
Ballot Question 1A (Allowing Pitkin County to provide high-speed internet, cable and telecommunication services pursuant to Senate Bill 05-152):
Question 1A strikes us as an easy decision. We're endorsing it because it would potentially improve Internet service in Pitkin County without any tax raise. If passed, 1A would allow Pitkin County to explore ways to improve its broadband infrastructure, possibly through a public-private partnership. The county's worst areas for Internet service include such unincorporated communities as Redstone, Thomasville and Castle Creek Valley.
The Internet improvements would come because 1A would allow the county to opt out of a 2005 Colorado Senate billed called Competition in Utility and Entertainment Services, which forbids governments from competing with the private sector over broadband service. Pitkin County officials have gone on record saying that the county wouldn't be an Internet service provider and would likely partner with the private sector.
This is a sensible approach to take. Vote "yes" on 1A.
Ballot Issue 5A (Aspen Valley Hospital District):
We also support the passage of question 5A, a property-tax extension that will help Aspen Valley Hospital remain the fiscally sound institution it has become. There was a time when the hospital had fewer than 10 days of cash on hand and its accounting department was a mess. Now the hospital has 180 days on hand, a strong credit rating and an efficient billing department. If passed, the mill levy is expected to draw nearly $3.9 million in 2016. Keep in mind, this is not a new tax or a higher tax, and it won't go toward funding any of the hospital's ongoing construction projects. The 1.5 mill levy supports such hospital services as day-to-day operations, salaries and equipment and maintenance, among other things. It accounts for a tiny fraction of the hospital's overall revenue, but it's a critical piece nonetheless. And it's also a small price to pay for property owners in Pitkin County (except those in Redstone, which isn't part of the hospital district). For the owner of a $100,000 home, the 1.5-mill translates to $11.94 a year. Vote "yes" on 5A to help ensure Aspen Valley Hospital remains on strong financial footing.
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State Proposition BB:
Colorado's marijuana tax-revenue projections turned out to be short, and now voters have to decide what the state should do with all the extra pot-tax revenue. The question is a work-around of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights that would require the state to refund the excess money — about $52 million — to taxpayers.
The Vote Yes on BB committee says voting "yes" will allocate $40 million for public school construction, $8.5 million to various education and youth programs and the rest to law enforcement and substance-abuse prevention, among other efforts. We think state voters sent the message loud in clear when they approved Proposition AA in 2013, which imposed taxes on marijuana and earmarked revenue to fund school construction as well as the state's regulation of the industry. There's more money now than anticipated and we think we should give it to the kids and the schools. Vote "yes" on Proposition BB to put these tax revenues to good use for Colorado children.
Ballot Question 2B (Use of the Aspen Armory Site, currently City Hall):
We can't see any reason to vote for keeping city offices in the Armory building, but this ballot question falls short in telling voters much about "community use." The proponents of the building's conversion to "community use" have a lot of ideas, none of which sounds bad, but we don't like that the feasibility study comes later. Shouldn't that happen first, before you ask voters to approve a conceptual use?
It would have been nice to vote for something we as a community could actually define, but this "community use" is vague at best. We're supporting it because we think it's time the city moved into a new building that can last 50 or more years, but we don't like being asked to vote on a concept that hasn't even been studied yet. So vote for "community use" on 2B, because we think "City Hall" is the wrong choice.
Ballot Issue 3A (Aspen School District Mill Levy):
"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." — Derek Bok, former president of Harvard University.
We think this one is a no-brainer.
It costs money to provide a strong academic program and an impressive array of extracurricular choices. The state is falling short on its obligations, thanks to a Gordian knot of conflicting constitutional amendments, and voters should support their school district by allowing it to collect property taxes as high as the state-mandated limit. It's a small addition to people's tax bills but it nets nearly $1 million for the district per year. Vote "yes" on 3A.
Aspen School District No. 1 (board of directors):
There are five candidates vying for two school board seats. The newly elected board will then appoint the third open seat. Incumbents include Sandra Peirce and Sheila Wills. The three challengers are Margeaux Johansson, Mary Houchin and Lee Mulcahy.
We think Peirce and Wills offer experience and have put forth earnest efforts to establish reliable local revenue streams amid dwindling state funding. Houchin, a former teacher who has consistently attended board meetings during campaign season, is up to speed on the issues and seems genuine in her desire to give back to the community.
Johansson, who has children in fourth grade, seventh grade and 10th grade, has impressed us with her focus on strengthening science and math education. We also like the idea of parent representation on the board.
Ballot Question 2A (Referendum – 232 E. Main St., which is Base2 Lodge):
The Aspen Times ran an editorial in Wednesday's paper outlining reasons to vote for or against the Base2 Lodge project. Our editorial board was divided, and we presented a point-counterpoint editorial. To read the piece, visit http://www.aspentimes.com/news/18715272-113/ aspen-times-editorial- dueling-positions-on-base2.
Ballot Issue 4A (Basalt Fire):
The Basalt Fire District is seeking voter approval for debt in question 4A. Despite legalese wording that is confusing, the district is simply trying to extend a mill levy to repay the debt. Bonds that were issued in 1995 will be paid off this year. The fire district wants to issue new bonds and retain the current mill levy to pay off the new debt. The question will not raise taxes. The revenue will be used for affordable housing, remodeling the Basalt fire house and replacing equipment. The fire district has earned voters' support. Vote "yes."
Ballot Issue 4C (Basalt Sanitation District):
The Basalt Sanitation District is asking town voters in question 4C to allow it to keep revenue from state grants. State law places caps on revenue for taxing district. This is an innocuous request that won't raise property taxes. It should be approved. Vote "yes."
The Aspen Times editorial board consists of Publisher Samantha Johnston, Editor Lauren Glendenning, Managing Editor Rick Carroll and community members Bob Braudis and Kathryn Koch.