Ladies and Gentlemen, this election year has almost come to a close. I for one am excited to try and begin some return to a normal news cycle on Wednesday, but we’ve still got two days left before this three-ring circus wraps-up.
Of course, the top discussion everywhere is the presidential election, but please don’t forget that there are a number of very important issues up for vote right here in Colorado and Boulder and if you’re still confused by all of the amendments, referendums, and ballot issues, trust me, you’re not alone here. I’d like to help you out with some of the Boulder issues up for vote this year so you can be sure you’re making an informed decision.
Boulder County Ballot Issues
Summary: The County is asking for money to repair streets, roads, and bridges by increasing property taxes. If voters approve the measure, the owner of a $400,000 home would pay about $25 more a year in property taxes, starting in 2017. This increase is projected to generate about $5.5 million annually and the breakdown would give 42% of the income to cities and towns to maintain their streets and 58% would go towards fixing up about 120 miles of paved county roads within residential subdivisions that lie outside municipal boundaries.
For: Homeowners in unincorporated county residential subdivisions have been footing the bill for road maintenance since 1995, but the roads are used by motorists, hikers and cyclists from throughout the county, as well as visitors to and residents of those rural subdivisions, resulting in significant wear and tear on the roads to the tune of $60 to $70 million to get the roads up to par. This measure would be a fair way to rehabilitate county roads that benefit all county residents.
Against: The property tax burden on people living inside is disproportionate to the benefit. They would be paying about 80% of the countywide property tax, and only receiving 48% of the annual revenue. There are already sufficient unappropriated funds and enough revenue in the existing budget to fund these repairs without increasing taxes.
Summary: The current collections of a 0.25% sales and use tax that helps fund Boulder County’s expenses of acquiring and managing open space expire on Dec. 31, 2019. Basically, this measure extends collections for 15 more years and changes the use tax to 0.1.25%, for another 15 years. It also would give Boulder County authority to issue up to $30 million in bonds to finance future county open space acquisitions.
For: Open space is an important part of the Boulder County community and extending the collections will allow the county to continue managing and maintaining current and future open space acquisitions.
Against: This measure is too much too soon. The current tax doesn’t expire for three more years and Boulder County already owns and/or manages over 103,000 acres of open space. If Boulder doesn’t have enough to afford maintaining the land it currently has, why should it be buying more?
Summary: This is related to the use tax above and its expiration and proposes the same extension and change in collection amount, but proposes spending that revenue on “sustainability” services, such as programs that promote reduced water and energy consumption, increased solid-waste recycling, increasing farmers’ production of organic food and food for local consumers, and the use of mass transit and other alternative modes of transportation.
For: Sustainability is a core part of Boulder County’s principles and this measure would help to promote and strengthen programs in the community to continue on the city and county’s trajectory towards greater sustainability and offer resiliency from disasters while helping county residents and businesses save on utility bills.
Against: This measure is too vague and doesn’t give enough details regarding how the revenue would be spent. More time should be spent preparing a ballot question that offers more specificity.
Summary: This measure would extend the term limits for Boulder County district attorneys from a maximum of three consecutive 4-year terms to four consecutive terms.
For: Giving the DA four consecutive terms would let the staff develop more long-term plans for the justice system in Boulder. It’s also in line with the recently changed four consecutive terms for Boulder County sheriff.
Against: There’s actually not a whole heck of a lot of opposition on this measure. At least, nothing organized.
Boulder City Ballot Issues
Question 302: Council term limits
Summary: Should the members of the nine-person Boulder City Council be limited to three lifetime terms? Council terms last four years, with the exception of a two-year term awarded each election to the lowest vote-getter among winners.
For: The idea behind this issue is to open up the city council to changing ideas every once in a while. By limiting the amount of time city council members are in office, this will open the door for fresh thinking.
Against: There are two viewpoints on this: one is that this measure is useless, since no city council member has ever served more than three terms, the other is that limiting the term limits would rob Boulder County citizens of the experience of a more seasoned city council member.
Issue 2H: Sugar-sweetened beverages tax
Summary: This measure would have Boulder impose a $0.02-per-ounce excise tax on distributors of beverages with at least 5 grams of added sweetener per 12 ounces, such as most sodas and energy drinks. Exceptions to the tax would include milk products, baby formula, alcoholic beverages and medical drinks.
For: This tax seeks to dissuade people from consuming unhealthy, high-sugar beverages. The tax would pay for public health programs that the Boulder City Council would select.
Against: Opponents say the tax is unnecessary government control. Ambiguity around how, exactly, the tax would impact businesses and their customers has also fueled some opposition.
Question 2I: Blue Line clarification
Summary: The Blue Line is an unofficial north-south boundary on the city’s west side that determined the elevation above which Boulder could not provide water service. However, since it’s introduction in 1959, it’s never ben comprehensively clarified. This ballot issue seeks to officially define the Blue Line boundary.
For: Supporters say that it’s high time the Blue Line gets clear definition along its entire border. The City Council and Boulder officials who initiated the measure assure voters that it won’t do anything to enable the kind of development the original line meant to prevent.
Against: No organized group has come out against this measure and open space advocates are happy with the proposal.
Question 2J: Council compensation for benefits
Summary: Should Boulder City Council members receive benefits on the same terms and conditions as regular city employees?
For: Did you know that city council members are only paid per meeting? While the job of serving on city council is almost full time, members are not paid anywhere near a living wage to do their job. Adding a better benefits package would help motivate a more diverse crowd to offer to serve on city council.
Against: Basically, voters are reluctant to support anything on the ballot that has the possibility of giving council members more money and this measure is no different since the better benefits packages could be seen as a form of payment.
This concludes our Boulder section of the voter’s guide. If you’re looking for information on the candidates or some of the state issues, I highly recommend Colorado Public Radio’s voter guide. Now get out there and cast your vote!