2010 Colorado elections: Initiative 101, Amendments 60, 61

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From the editorial board of the Sterling Journal Advocate:

What should be the first, biggest concern locally is the city of Sterling is committed to a $29 million water project. Paying that off in 10 years would raise rates even higher than what some residents and businesses see as crippling.

We agree that government needs to be limited, and the more money a worker has in his or her pocket the better the economy is. We would even consider that the state government needs ratcheting down. We do, however, admit to being nervous ourselves about how extreme these proposals are.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

Amendment 61 proposes amending the Colorado Constitution to:

• Prohibit all state government borrowing
• Prohibit local government borrowing unless approved by voters
• Limit the amount and length of time of local government borrowing
• Require that tax rates be reduced after borrowing is repaid

Arguments For Amendment 61:

Recent data show that over the past 10 years, borrowing by the state and its enterprises in Colorado has nearly tripled and interest payments have more than doubled. Borrowing is expensive because it includes interest payments and fees, and too much government borrowing today could affect public services in the future. Limits on borrowing are needed to be sure spending directly benefits the public instead of being committed to repay debts. Amendment 61 encourages fiscal restraint through a pay-as-you-go approach to government spending. This approach prevents government from passing on debt to future generations. Because the public is responsible for paying government borrowing through taxes and fees, voters should be asked before money is borrowed. Governments have found creative ways to borrow because the existing limits on government borrowing are not strict enough and the government can still borrow without voter approval. Amendment 61 requires that any future local government borrowing be submitted to voters for consideration. Amendment 61 reduces taxes when borrowing is repaid, giving individuals and businesses more money to spend as they please. Tax rates should go down when borrowing is repaid because the government no longer needs money for the annual payments.

Arguments Against Amendment 61:

Borrowing is a crucial tool for financing large public investments. Similar to the way that private citizens use a loan to buy a home or car, borrowing is often the only way governments can afford to build and maintain safe bridges, roads, and schools. Amendment 61 makes it harder to manage public finances at the lowest cost and to respond in a timely manner to the needs of citizens. Amendment 61 limits the ability of communities to meet the demands of a growing economy. Colorado’s population has grown almost 20 percent in the last decade, requiring new roads, schools, and water treatment plants. These public investments are the foundations needed by communities to operate and to attract residents and businesses. Some governments will face serious financial disruptions as a result of Amendment 61. For example, in 2011, school districts that rely on short-term borrowing will be in fiscal deficit until spring tax collections are received, and will have to consider options such as reducing or suspending teacher pay, closing schools, or selling buildings. Some public buildings are built to last 30 years or more, but Amendment 61 prohibits borrowing by the state. This means that current taxpayers must pay the full cost of state buildings and roads rather than sharing the cost with future residents who benefit from these improvements. Amendment 61 places a disproportionate the full burden on today’s taxpayers.

SOURCE: 2010 Colorado Ballot Analysis, Second Draft, Colorado Legislative Council www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CGA-LegislativeCouncil/CLC/1200536134742, where information on Amendment 60 and Proposition 101 can also be found.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

2010 Colorado elections: Andrew Romanoff profile

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From the Cortez Journal (Joe Hanel):

Journal: How would you rate the performance of the gas and oil industry and its environmental record here in Colorado?

Romanoff: It’s mixed. What we tried to do in the statehouse was provide protections for water and land, make sure that communities themselves had a say in the decisions that affected them. We tried to provide better balance to the oil and gas commission, and generally strengthen the enforcement of public health and safety requirements. This is obviously a huge part of our economy. I reject the notion that you have to pick between promoting the economy and protecting the environment, because they’re both essential parts of our quality of life. I’m proud of the work we did to expand alternatives to fossil fuel and promote the use of renewable, and enhance energy efficiency and conservation efforts. Colorado’s a model for the country on the new energy economy. The governor deserves a lot of credit, in my view.

Rueter-Hess Reservoir: Castle Rock residents can get up close and personal with the project August 7

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From The Douglas County News Press:

The Rueter-Hess Reservoir, presently under construction in Parker, is an important part of Castle Rock’s sustainable water strategy. The town is offering residents this chance to tour the reservoir before it’s filled with water. Castle Rock residents are invited to take a self-guided driving tour from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Aug. 7.

Rueter-Hess is key to Castle Rock’s long-term water supply. The town has partnered with Parker Water and Sanitation District, Castle Pines North Metro District and Stonegate Valley Metro District on the project, scheduled for completion in 2012. This is one of the biggest water supply reservoirs to be constructed, in Colorado and along the Front Range, in decades.

Residents can stop by to see exhibits and water experts, to answer questions about this and other water projects. Please note the tour will be cancelled in the event of rain.

The reservoir is at 9343 Newlin Gulch Road in Parker. For directions and a map, go to CRgov.com/rhtour.com.

Questions? Contact Carolyn Richards, crichards@CRgov.com or 720-733-6002.

More Rueter-Hess Reservoir coverage here and here.

Precipitation news

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From NBCNews11.com: (James Hopkins)

Deep monsoonal moisture continues to stream over a good portion of eastern Colorado and western Colorado. This steady stream of moisture will persist for the next two days and possibly longer. Thunderstorms producing heavy showers will be common in the watch area. Showers will be slow to dissipate during the night and steady light rain during the morning hours will be possible, keeping the soils loose and saturated…

Flash Flood watch is for portions of Colorado and Utah, including the following areas: in Colorado: Animas River basin, central Colorado river basin, central Gunnison and Uncompahgre river basin, Debeque to Silt corridor, Flattops, Four corners/upper Dolores river, Gore and Elk mountains/central mountain valleys, Grand Valley, Grand and Battlement Mesas, northwest San Juan mountains, Paradox valley/lower Dolores river, Roan and Tavaputs plateaus, San Juan river basin, southwest San Juan mountains, Uncompahgre plateau and Dallas divide, upper Gunnison river valley and west Elk and Sawatch mountains.

From the Summit Daily News (Robert Allen):

Rick Bly, NWS observer in Breckenridge, said July brought above-average precipitation to the area, with 2.54 inches having fallen by early Friday afternoon. The average is 2.32 inches. In the past year, there were only three months of above-average precipitation. April was 14 percent above normal and October 2009 was also above normal. “We’ve had a concerning lack of moisture,” Bly said. “So it’s good that we’re getting caught up a little bit here.”[…]

Bly said that on July 29, Breckenridge received 1.13 inches of rain — a rare occurrence. “I’ve been keeping records for about 35 years, and I think over an inch in precipitation (has fallen) in less than 24 hours less than a dozen times in all those years,” he said.

Energy policy — nuclear: State Representatives Randy Fischer, John Kefalas and “Buffie” McFadyen petition state for tougher uranium in situ leaching rules

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

State Rep. Randy Fischer wrote a letter also signed by Reps. John Kefalas and Liane “Buffie” McFadyen urging state mining officials to ensure mining companies can’t slip through a loophole in new rules being written to govern in situ uranium mining statewide.

The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety is in the process of finalizing the rules, which implement a 2008 law requiring mining companies to comply with strict environmental regulations if they plan to use in situ leaching. The rules will directly determine if and how Powertech will be able to proceed with its plans to mine for uranium in Weld County less than 10 miles northeast of Fort Collins.

Uranium mining companies, including Powertech, will be required to test the groundwater before they begin mining to determine baseline groundwater quality so they can learn the level of purity to which they will be required return the groundwater when they shutter the mine site.

But Fischer said many people living near potential uranium mine sites are worried uranium prospectors could search for uranium intending to mine using conventional methods but decide later to mine using the in situ leaching process. Conventional prospecting could be done without regard for groundwater quality, throwing off baseline water quality tests.

More on uranium mining from Kathrine Warren writing for The Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

“There’s uranium throughout the Colorado Plateau, it’s not unique to the Paradox Basin,” said uranium expert and Colorado School of Mines geology Professor Sam Romberger. “The geology around the basin exposes part of the sedimentary layers that contain the uranium.”[…]

Uranium was a part of Earth’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago and is a major source of heat in the Earth’s core. The element is found in small amounts all around us. However, the rainfall and petrified organic matter from millions of years ago made the Morrison layer the perfect host for one of our planet’s primordial elements. The moving waters of this once-tropical coast brought uranium in contact with the organic matter of fossils or petrified trees. “Those channels were perfect for not only the transport but the deposition of uranium,” Romberger said. The deposits of the Morrison Formation are exposed to mining because of the San Miguel and Dolores rivers that wind through the formation. Most know parts of the exposed Morrison Formation as the Uravan Mineral Belt, the home of the most productive mines of Colorado and Utah’s uranium boom. “The Paradox Valley is what geologists refer to as a breached fold,” Romberger said. “The Morrison has been bent up and exposed to erosion along the rivers.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.