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Home / Articles / Special Sections / Vote 2011 /  Vote 2011: Boulder City & County
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Thursday, October 6,2011

Vote 2011: Boulder City & County

By Boulder Weekly Staff

Boulder County

Boulder County Ballot Question 1A

Yes x

No 

While it may be tempting to consider the good job that Sheriff Joe Pelle has done when deciding how to vote on this question, don’t forget the big picture. The question is, should we allow a sheriff to serve up to four terms, instead of the current three that is permitted for this office? Other elected county officials are permitted only three terms, with the exception of the county commissioners, who can serve only two. This initiative would permit a sheriff to serve up to 16 years instead of 12, but he or she would still have to stand for election every four years, of course. So we could always vote the bum out, if necessary. We think that if we elect a sheriff who happens to be exceptional, as in the case of Pelle, that person should be allowed to serve up to four terms. This position is not like that of a state legislator, where politics and cronyism can play a significant role and new blood is needed regularly. This is a professional, skill-based position that takes time to learn, and a good sheriff shouldn’t be kicked out after 12 years if he or she is serving the public well. Boulder Weekly urges a YES vote on County Ballot Question 1A.


CITY OF BOULDER

Boulder Ballot Issue 2A

Yes x

No 

Ballot Issue 2A asks voters to approve $49 million of bonds for capital improvement projects, including street and pathway maintenance, repairing bridges, renovating aging city facilities, modernizing police and fire facilities and more. The total repayment costs would be up to $82 million. Those are huge numbers, but, city Communications Manager Patrick von Keyserling says, 2A would use existing revenues, not new taxes, to fund the bonds. “There would be no tax increases if voters approved it,” von Keyserling says. “This doesn’t impact revenue sales tax at all. These are already existing revenues that are coming in. So as these other debts are paid off, that frees up the money to issue new bonds.” The city is asking for this money in order to make certain vital repairs, like bridges and roads. If voters don’t approve the bonds, the need for these projects will not go away. Rather, von Keyserling says, the city manager will have to explore new ways to fund these projects, possibly by initiating a “pay-as-you-go” system. The downside of that, though, would be that spreading the projects out over a number of years would increase costs compared to paying for them all at once. Note that even the expense-averse Boulder Chamber of Commerce has endorsed 2A. These are vital repairs, and approving these bonds would allow the city to get the best price for unavoidable and vital maintenance at no additional expense to the taxpayer. It’s a win-win. Vote YES on 2A.


Boulder Ballot Issue 2B

Yes x

No 

This is the first of two questions related to the effort to create a municipal electric utility for the city of Boulder.

Issue 2B authorizes the city to increase the existing utility occupation tax by up to $1.9 million a year to plan for the utility and acquire “an existing electric distribution system,” presumably the one owned by Xcel. The tax would expire no later than Dec. 31, 2017, and would end earlier if the city decides not to pursue municipalization or launches the utility before that date.

It is hard to swallow such a significant tax increase, especially because the city could spend a lot of money and then decide to abandon the municipalization idea. Issue 2B comes down to a couple of key questions. First, to what extent do we trust the city staff and our elected city council members to make a sound decision on this matter? And further, how much is our dedication to local control and powering ourselves with renewable energy worth? It’s a complex issue, but we support municipalization. Vote YES.


Boulder Ballot Question 2C

Yes x

No

Like Issue 2B, this ballot question deals with the effort to create a municipal electric utility for the city of Boulder. Whereas 2B dealt with the tax increase, 2C asks voters to give the city the authority to create a municipal light and power utility. The key language here includes the authorization of “programs and improvements that include, without limitation, generation plants, renewable energy, energy conservation and distribution systems, with all necessary powers appurtenant thereto … .” There are, however, some cost limits built in. The question explicitly states that Boulder will not charge rates exceeding Xcel’s rates at the time of acquisition. In addition, 2C says those rates must be enough to fund operating expenses and debt payments, plus an amount equal to 25 percent of the debt payments, and that the city will provide “reliability comparable to Xcel Energy.”

Yes, there is some broad language in here, but we believe there are enough guardrails to keep this from becoming a money pit, and municipalization is consistent with the community’s localization and renewable energy priorities. Vote YES.

Boulder Ballot Question 2D

Yes x

No 

Ballot Question 2D is one of three questions posed to Boulder voters this year asking for permission to clean up language in the Boulder Revised Code. Specifically, 2D deals with the formal titles of certain city employees and would reword the charter to reflect the current organizational structure of the city. For example, the city wants to change “finance director” to “chief financial officer.” The reason for this, explains Kathy Haddock, senior assistant city attorney, is that the city already refers to that position as the CFO, and the charter should reflect that language. If the charter were left unchanged, both titles would have to be included on official city documents, which causes confusion; 2D would eliminate that. Ballot Question 2D also would move the duties of the city clerk to the city manager’s office, refine some minor duties of both positions, allow the city manager to hire the city clerk, and eliminate references to the “city marshal,” a position that hasn’t existed in the city for some time. It also houses all licensing responsibilities under the chief financial officer. Voting YES is a clear and easy choice, and we recommend that you do just that.


Boulder Ballot Question 2E

Yes x

No 

There are two documents that spell out the workings of the city of Boulder: the charter and the revised code. Violating the code is a misdemeanor, punishable with jail time and a fine of up to $1,000, but violating the charter gets you merely a $100 fine. Ballot Question 2E changes the fine for violating the charter to $1,000, making the punishment equal to that for other city misdemeanors. Voting YES would give equal punitive weight to charter violations, creating a penalty that actually has some heft to it, not an absurd $100.


Boulder Ballot Question 2F

Yes x

No 

Ballot Question 2F cleans up some rules regarding Boulder’s City Council elections, including when council members start their terms, some language changes and voting machine rules. It also changes the requirement that a council candidate be a “qualified elector” to a “registered elector,” to meet a requirement set forth by a court decision. The charter contained some rules about voting machines that are now obsolete and also conflict with state rules regarding voting machines, and 2F would remove them. The question would also remove some language from the charter that deals with the formation of canvassing boards, since, as Senior Assistant City Attorney Kathy Haddock says, the city now defers to state law when forming canvassing boards. Another change would be to stop listing candidates in alphabetical order and instead by lot — people complained that alphabetical listings skewed the results in favor of those with last names in the beginning of the alphabet. Sounds fair to us. This is a pretty straightforward question, so don’t be a stick in the mud. Vote YES.


Boulder Ballot Question 2G

Yes x

No

In the pre-TABOR days when the Boulder Revised Code was written, Colorado had no odd-year elections. City elections always happened during the even years, but citizens could force special elections if they collected signatures from 5 percent of the registered electorate. Now that there are elections held every year, the charter still allows special elections, should a group of citizens collect enough signatures, up to 45 days before the regular election, says Kathy Haddock, senior assistant city attorney. Elections cost money, and the city would rather spare taxpayers the expense unless an election is absolutely necessary. If passed, Ballot Question 2G would eliminate the possibility of having a special election unless citizens can gather signatures from 15 percent of the electorate. It would also require petitioners to submit the language to the city manager for review before gathering signatures, which Haddock says benefits both sides, as it notifies the city of the petition and allows the signature gatherers to make sure the wording of the measure reflects their intent. It also lengthens the time the City Council has to review petitions, adds a requirement that signatures be no more than 180 days old, and cleans up some rules the city believed were too specific for the charter. The city has valid cause to want to avoid the expense of a special election, and none of the other changes would stop a true grassroots effort of the people by the people if the cause were right. Vote YES.


Boulder Ballot Question 2H

Amendment To Abolish Corporate Personhood

Yes x

No

Yes, this is yet another example of the Boulder City Council weighing in on a national or international issue over which it has no control, but it’s a noble cause. This is a call for “reclaiming democracy from the corrupting effects of corporate control.” It’s a show of support for the Move to Amend initiative, which aims to change the U.S. Constitution so that it overrides the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that essentially granted personhood to corporations. The January 2010 ruling, which said that the First Amendment prohibits limits on corporate funding of political broadcasts in candidate elections, was criticized for equating money with free speech and giving companies carte blanche to outspend the competition on ads for their favored candidates. Opponents say that the City Council should be focusing instead on local matters in its own jurisdiction, and that stripping corporations of rights would hurt the economy.

But we believe that large corporations should not have the right to buy our elections, nor should corporations receive the same rights under the Constitution as human beings. Corporations have a role to play in our society, but they need to be controlled. They should not be used to give the people who own them the collective power to drown out the voice of The People. This ballot question is just symbolic and in no way binding. We strongly advocate voting YES.

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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

re: 2B and 2C:

There are many comments opposed to the ballot issues on the Daily Camera's editorial in favor of it here:

http://www.dailycamera.com/ci_19065194

and on a city council member's comments on it here:

http://www.dailycamera.com/guestopinion/ci_19065180

 

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

re: 2H  There are so many flaws in that its hard to know where to begin, its based on a complete lack of understanding fo the legal issues involved since there are no special rights for corporations, they are merely the collective rights of the humans involved. There are many comments explaining the problems in stories/editorials on the topic on the Daily Camera site if you search, but this story is a place to start, with a law professor expressing a good summary of it in the article:

http://www.dailycamera.com/election/ci_18913652

"Mark Lowenstein, a professor at the University of Colorado's law school, said people are right to be concerned that the referendum language is too broad.

"To me, it's ludicrous that someone would propose this," he said. "It's almost juvenile in its wording.""

 

 
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