Rolly Fischer, who died recently, is the subject of this blog post from Jason Salzman and The Huffington Post. Jason, characteristically humble, doesn’t mention his role in uncovering the plagiarism scandal. I know he was involved because he emailed me early on asking about the work that Scott McIinnis so blatantly stole from Greg Hobbs and others.
Hobbs said at the time that he would have expected some credit from McIinnis.
Take a trip back through time in the Coyote Gulch archives here.
Here’s Jason’s blog post:
Rolly Fischer, who bravely fought off 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis’ attempts to blame him for McInnis’ plagiarized water articles, died last week in Glenwood Springs.
Fischer went from “irascible“ water nerd to cult hero in Colorado political circles after some of McInnis’ articles, commissioned by the Hasan Family Foundation, on Colorado water issues turned out to be substantially lifted from the writings of then Colorado Supreme Court Judge Gregory Hobbs.
After the plagiarism came to light, McInnis blamed Fischer, who was 82 years old at the time.
Ferrugia asked, “Rolly, is Scott McInnis lying to us?”
After some thought Fischer said, “Yes.”
The 82-year-old said, “I never knew about the foundation or any foundation Scott was associated with.”
“Did you know how he was using these?” Ferrugia asked, referring to the articles.
“No. I had this sophomoric assumption that he wanted them for his own inventory,” said Fischer.
Turned out, McInnis even tried to get Fischer to sign a letter saying the plagiarism was Fischer’s fault.
After the Ferrugia interview, McInnis sort of took responsibility for the plagiarism, telling The Denver Post, “I made a mistake. . . . I immediately owned up to it. It’s my responsibility. I’ve got to fix it. I’ve told my side of the story. So that’s where we are on that. I’d love to talk to you on jobs and some of these other things.”
He gave his two-year stipend of $300,000 back to the foundation. (He’d paid Fischer a few hundred dollars per water article.)
But in 2014, McInnis appeared to throw Fischer under the bus again, telling the Grand Junction Sentinel that he “didn’t plagiarize, period” and that he’d “used ghost writers my whole career” and “didn’t make the mistake.”
Scott McInnis, a former U.S. representative and current Mesa County commissioner, called Fischer “a water giant in his time,” who prepared the district for the issues it faces today…
Fischer figured in the collapse of McInnis’ campaign for governor in 2010, but McInnis said he never held the incident against Fischer.
“That’s water under the bridge now. I always thought Rollie was one of the brightest water people on the Western Slope,” McInnis said.
Did McInnis really say water under the bridge? A new water musing?
In any case, Fischer’s uninvited but starring role in the story of the downfall of McInnis deserves more than an asterisk in Colorado history. It was game changing.
If you were around at the time, you know that McInnis’ treatment of Fischer was far more damaging politically to McInnis than the plagiarism itself. It lead directly to McInnis’ loss in the GOP gubernatorial primary to Dan Maes, whose many flaws (and despite the best efforts of former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo) paved the way for Hickenlooper to be governor.
Unlike now, Hickenlooper, you may recall, was weak and flailing during the 2010 election, and Hick would might have lost to McInnis in a general election. And McInnis might have won the GOP primary had Fischer lied and taken fake responsibility for the plagiarism, as McInnis asked him to do. I mean, Tancredo and Maes, who both ran for governor in 2010, together had nearly as many votes as Hick.
It clearly wasn’t easy for Fischer, who served as a Colorado Water District Chief, to stand up to his long-time friend McInnis, but apparently in keeping with his personality, he did, and it brightened the spotlight not only on the plagiarism but on a nasty side of McInnis that GOP voters didn’t like. Can you blame them?
We owe Fischer our collective gratitude for his honesty.
Click through and read the whole column from Ed Quillen writing for the The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:
McInnis blamed his researcher, retired water engineer Rolly Fischer of Glenwood Springs, and even faxed a confessional letter for Fischer to sign, which Fischer didn’t. Now the state Attorney Regulation Council has decided McInnis can keep his law license because at some point he advised the Hasan Foundation that he was getting some help from Fischer, even though he was supposed to be doing the work himself. You’d think he could have pointed that out in the summer of 2010, when it might have mattered.
Last summer Scott McInnis’s campaign imploded from the news that some of the work he had done for the Hasan Family Foundation was plagiarized. Journalist Jason Salzman (Bigmedia.org) stayed with his investigation into the candidate’s writings and the rest is Colorado political history. It’s too late for Mr. McInnis to challenge Governor Hickenlooper but he probably welcomes today’s news. Here’s a report from Sara Burnett writing for The Denver Post. From the article:
Regulation Counsel John Gleason said new evidence and follow-up interviews with witnesses revealed no “clear and convincing evidence” that McInnis, an attorney, violated disciplinary rules…
Colorado Ethics Watch filed a complaint with the ARDC, which investigates attorneys for violations of court rules and the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct…
[McInnis researcher Rollie Fischer] told the ARDC that he alone copied Hobbs’ work without crediting him, that he didn’t tell McInnis he had done so, and that he expected McInnis to publish the work as his own.
More coverage from John Tomasic writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:
“We’re satisfied that [the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel] did a very thorough investigation of the matter,” Colorado Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro told the Colorado Independent. “They took their time to look closely at the material and deposed two witnesses. We’re glad that they put a period on this story. The public gains in transparency for its having done the investigation.”
More coverage from Gary Harmon writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:
The attorney regulation counsel for the Colorado Supreme Court declined to pursue disciplinary action against McInnis, documents obtained by The Daily Sentinel said. Copies of the same documents also were posted on the http://www.scribd.com…
Letters signed by John S. Gleason, who heads the office of attorney regulation, said the incident that shattered McInnis’ attempt for the Republican nomination for governor, was the result of a series of forgotten conversations and emails among the principals, including officials of the Hasan Foundation, which demanded that McInnis repay $300,000 he had been paid for the articles…
While Fischer and the foundation provided contradictory accounts at the time the issue was raised, “a more thorough review of their archived materials demonstrates that both had forgotten several specific communications with Mr. McInnis that had occurred several years before,” Gleason wrote.
More coverage from Gene Davis writing for Law Week Colorado. Here’s an excerpt:
The regulatory counsel interviewed several key witnesses in the incident, including water expert Rolly Fischer, who McInnis says he hired to help research the issue. McInnis blames the plagiarism on research provided to him by Fischer. McInnis and the Hasan Foundation last summer reached a settlement agreement to repay the organization, though McInnis maintained that his only error was trusting Fischer. As part of the attorney regulatory counsel’s investigation, an investigator scoured through handwritten notes and personal e-mails, as well as interviews with witnesses. According to the counsel’s findings, Fischer was responsible for the plagiarism, not McInnis. “Mr. Fischer alone chose to import large sections of text previously written by the Honorable Justice Gregory Hobbs into one of the articles drafted for Mr. McInnis, without credit citation,” states the results of the investigation.
Fischer apparently argued that the use was not plagiarism because he believes the article is part of the “public domain,” according to the investigation, compiled from interviews with Fischer. Fischer had never disclosed to McInnis that he had taken Hobbs’ work, according to the report.
More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
McInnis blamed the plagiarism on Rolly Fischer, whom he had enlisted as an assistant for his water writings. Fischer claimed he believed Hobbs’ writings were in the public domain. A review of correspondence between McInnis and Fischer conducted by the Attorney Regulation Counsel found that in 2005 “McInnis had instructed Mr. Fischer not to plagiarize any work in the articles he drafted,” according to the counsel’s letter of findings. It also noted that: Fischer “alone chose large sections of text” from Hobbs’ writings and passed them along to McInnis for publication without attributing it to Hobbs. Fischer did not inform McInnis that he had imported Hobbs’ work for the articles. Fischer expected McInnis to treat the articles as his own without providing any credit to Fischer.
On Monday, McInnis’s defenders viewed the findings as an exoneration and an opportunity to question the journalism of the Denver Post, which broke the story of how McInnis, in 2005, was paid $300,000 by the Hasan Foundation to write a series of articles on water, a job he pawned off on a researcher, Rollie Fischer, who plagiarized portions of the articles from 1983 essays by current Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs…
The Post’s publisher, Dean Singleton, defended the paper’s reporting in a radio interview Monday afternoon and even insinuated that the emails used to clear McInnis’s name might have been forged by McInnis himself. “He didn’t produce them [earlier] because they probably didn’t exist,” Singleton said in an interview on the Caplis and Silverman show.”
More coverage from Jason Salzman writing for Huffpost Denver. From the article:
It turns out that an attorney connected to the Colorado Supreme Court conducted an investigation, at the behest of Colorado Ethics Watch, on whether McInnis’ behavior meets the lawyerly snuff test. His investigation, indeed, cleans up McInnis a bit, but it doesn’t clear his name, unless you believe throwing people under buses is a good idea…
So Gleason clears McInnis of dishonest lawyerly conduct. But does it clear him of slimy, squeezy, mean politican conduct? Does it make his conduct look, ah, gubernatorial, if I can use that word there?[…]
If so, if McInnis thought this would Shyne up his image, McInnis still doesn’t get it. His mistake was throwing his research assistant under the bus. He could have survived the plagiarism, probably. But his handling of it sunk his campaign. He can’t clear his name of those mistakes. That was his problem then, and that’s what he’s going to have to live with.
More coverage from the Colorado Statesman (Ernest Luning). From the article:
In letters sent last week to McInnis’ attorneys and to Colorado Ethics Watch — the liberal watchdog group that filed a complaint over the matter last summer — regulation counsel John S. Gleason said his office’s investigation revealed that “there is no clear and convincing evidence Mr. McInnis knowingly engaged in dishonest conduct.”
The report arrived 10 months after revelations in a Denver Post story threw the state Republican Party into turmoil. In the months that followed, McInnis, a former six-term congressman, lost the Republican nomination for governor to a rookie politician named Dan Maes, but only after another former Republican congressman, Tom Tancredo, tried to force both from the race. When that failed, Tancredo bolted the party and ran under the banner of the previously obscure American Constitution Party, finishing in second place behind Democrat John Hickenlooper…
Gleason also concluded that, “based on our interview with Ms. Hasan and our review of the documents she provided to us, including contemporaneous emails between her and Mr. McInnis, it is also clear Mr. McInnis notified her of his retention of Mr. Fischer as a research assistant.” Not so fast, said the woman who heads the foundation that paid McInnis $300,000 to spread the word on water – and then got a full refund when the plagiarized passages came to light last year. Hasan disputed Gleason’s characterization of the documents she said the foundation provided to investigators. It’s true a previously undisclosed document came to light, said Seeme Hasan, the foundation’s president, in an interview with The Statesman this week. But it wasn’t an email and it didn’t describe Fischer as a “research assistant.”
What the foundation’s attorneys turned over to the OARC was a fax cover sheet that had been buried in boxes of foundation documents for years, she said. It accompanied an article McInnis submitted in June 2005 and included the handwritten note, “I feel very good about the articles and the goal of serving the public interest. On a regular basis I have been assisted by Rolly Fischer, and his confidence that we are reaching our goal is high as well.” Hasan said that was the only mention McInnis made of Fischer in any of their correspondence and hardly qualifies as the kind of disclosure the OARC claims it is. “As far as I’m concerned, it did not say research assistant, it did not say co-author, it did not say he would help me write, it just said assistant,” Hasan said. “That could mean the assistant who faxes his papers.”[…]
After learning of the OARC’s decision, Hasan said she was ready to lay the matter to rest, even though she disagreed with the counsel’s finding. “Our conclusion is unchanged, because we were told that this was all original, and then last summer he acknowledged himself it was not all original,” she said…
“He has paid the foundation back, what’s been done has been done,” Hasan said. “But in my mind, it doesn’t take away what happened. I’m not sitting in his mind — I don’t know what he was thinking — but I am confident that some of the articles he sent to me, he had never even read them, he had never even looked at them. If he had looked at them, he would have been appalled.”[…]
“We’re pleased that there was an investigation that brought out these facts on this issue of public concern,” said Ethics Watch director Luis Toro. “We think that they exercised their discretion and we’re not going to challenge it based on a full investigation.”
More Scott McInnis coverage here. More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.
“My job is to see that we hold water up front and center to those in urban areas, so they realize how dependent we are on agriculture and the rural areas,” Hickenlooper told the Colorado Ag Water Alliance Friday. The alliance, which represents major statewide agricultural groups, in March asked Hickenlooper to increase planning, funding and permitting of water projects; continue funding for research of alternative transfer methods that don’t dry up farmland; add a representative from the Republican River basin to the Interbasin Compact Committee; and place more emphasis on the sustainable use of groundwater. In response, Hickenlooper brought the state’s top water officials to the alliance meeting Friday and pledged to do all he could to expedite water projects. He also supports ongoing state efforts to find new ways to share water…
For the last two years, Colorado agriculture revenues have been $7 billion, while the industry employs 110,000 people. But the benefits go beyond that in protecting rural economies and enhancing the environment, Hickenlooper said…
The governor said his arm-twisting skills may not be sufficient to convince cities to accept alternative ag transfer proposals rather than secure their own supplies, but said everyone in the state needs to work together to find mutually acceptable projects…
Hickenlooper said he is trying to find common ground with the governors of Nebraska and Kansas to see how water can be used cooperatively among the states within the boundaries of interstate compacts that place limits on what can be done. He also encouraged state agencies to work with federal regulators — the Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, Interior and Agriculture — to remove red tape that can hold up projects for years.
More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
As DNR director, [Jim Martin current Region 8 director for the EPA] asked Jennifer Gimbel, executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, to testify in Congress about the state’s preference to store more water in Chatfield Reservoir rather than accept the no-action alternative: drying up more agricultural land to satisfy urban demand. “The federal regulatory agencies have stopped saying ‘no,’ and are now saying ‘no, because,’ ” Gimbel said. “We are making progress (toward) ‘yes, if. . .’ ’’
Gimbel said the federal agencies say they do not want to influence state water rights, but that by blocking storage of more water in existing reservoirs like Chatfield in order to protect wetlands, the agencies are unwittingly setting the stage for more ag dry-up.
Meanwhile, Colorado State University has named a new head of Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Here’s the release from CSU (Jim Beers):
Gregory Perry, an expert in agricultural finance and taxation who has extensively studied water-management issues, will join Colorado State University July 15 as new head of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
Perry, a professor at Oregon State University at Corvallis, served for about three years as an interim department head there. His additional leadership posts at OSU focused on programs for graduate and undergraduate students, and he also started an international studies program in Chile.
“Dr. Perry has outstanding leadership experience and a highly recognized reputation in teaching and research that fits very well within the mission of our college at CSU,” said Craig Beyrouty, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “He is an important addition to our leadership team as the College of Agricultural Sciences addresses complex, local and global issues in agriculture and resource economics. We are delighted that Dr. Perry will be part of our College and serve in this very important role.”
Beyrouty noted that Perry’s research into water issues – especially his study of the interface between water management and agricultural finance – fits well with a key focus area for the College of Agricultural Sciences.
Perry will replace Stephen Davies as leader of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, a department with about 20 faculty members and about 325 undergraduate and graduate students.
Davies, department chair for six years, will return to a full-time focus on teaching and research. Davies teaches classes including agricultural marketing and international agricultural trade.
His ongoing “Future of Colorado Agriculture” project gathers critical information from agricultural stakeholders and provides these insights along with economic analysis to statewide policymakers. Davies also leads water-modeling research in Colorado and internationally.
Perry, who was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to teach in Chile, said he hopes to continue advancing CSU’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics to benefit students and the agricultural industry.
“Economics is the driving force in a lot of ways that agricultural activities occur in the state, determining what commodities are grown, when and how,” Perry said. “Economics becomes the prism through which all agribusiness production decisions are seen.”
He added: “Fundamentally, our job is to educate – to discover new knowledge and to disseminate that knowledge. So if we can do our jobs well, people involved in agriculture have the best economic science available to them to make the best decisions for their own well-being and for improved well-being in the state, nation and even the world.”
In Colorado alone, the agricultural industry annually generates $20 billion in economic activity, according to the state Department of Agriculture.
“This impact points to the importance of understanding agribusiness, finance and economics in food production,” Beyrouty said. “We also seek to understand and teach students about the intersection of agricultural economics with environmental issues, land and water management.”
Perry said he hopes to lead the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics in efforts including recruitment and ultimate career placement for talented graduate students, a focus on improving the quality of undergraduate instruction and student learning, support for young faculty members, creation of an endowed chair to advance high-impact research and teaching, and creation of endowed scholarships to support undergraduate education.
Perry earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Utah State University and his doctorate in agricultural economics at Texas A&M University.
Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program Summary
As Colorado’s population continues to grow in the coming decades, it is likely that increased transfers of agricultural water rights will occur in order to satisfy increased municipal and industrial (M&I) water demands. The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC), and the Colorado Water Congress have indicated their support of alternatives to traditional transfers resulting in permanent dry‐up in order to minimize the negative socioeconomic impacts to rural communities that so often result from such transfers.
One of the outcomes of the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) 2 study was the recognition that the State of Colorado might be able to provide incentives for M&I providers to consider alternative methods for their water supply options. In response, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 07‐122, which authorized the CWCB to develop a grant program to facilitate the development and implementation of alternative agricultural water transfer methods (ATMs).
Since its inception in 2007, the CWCB’s Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program has awarded $1.5 million to various water providers, ditch companies, and university groups for the funding of six unique projects; five of which have been underway during 2009– 2010. As illustrated in SWSI 2, rotational fallowing, Interruptible Service Agreements (ISAs), water banks, purchase and leasebacks, deficit irrigation, and changing crop type are the kinds of options that are available as alternatives to permanent agricultural transfers.
With the exception of purchase and leasebacks and some limited occurrences of short‐term leasing, these ATMs are just beginning to be explored as viable options for meeting M&I water demands in Colorado. While promising, there are technical, legal and institutional, financial, and other issues associated with ATMs. Through the ATM Grant Program, CWCB and others are currently exploring ways to address these issues utilizing incentives to gain greater awareness, interest, and participation from agricultural water users and municipalities with alternative agricultural water transfers.
The objectives of this memorandum are to further the understanding of the feasibility of implementing ATMs in Colorado by:
1. Providing an overview of ATM concepts;
2. Providing a summary of the ATM projects funded by grants awarded by CWCB;
3. Providing an overview of the current state of agricultural transfers in the South Platte Basin and the Arkansas Basin and assessing the viability of future transfers in various regions of those basins; and
4. Identifying and summarizing barriers to successful implementation of ATMs and summarizing the ways in which grant‐funded ATM projects have made progress toward finding solutions to the identified barriers to implementation.
The Fence Post is running a interview with Mr. Salazar that lays out his vision for the department and agriculture under a Hickenlooper administration. The interview is from The Greeley Tribune. Here’s an excerpt:
Tribune — Water has to be among your priorities.
Salazar — I’ve been involved with water all my life. I served on the Rio Grande Water Conservation District when AWDI (American Water Development Inc.) was trying to take San Luis Valley water out of the valley. We need to find ways to protect water for agriculture production. There’s a lot of new technology coming … but right now most of that is very expensive. However, as long as cities don’t use water to consumption, we can recycle it and use it again and again.
Tribune — The governor has indicated he may be in favor of the Northern Integrated Supply Project in northern Colorado. Where do you stand?
Salazar — I’ve come out in favor of it, but I want to see if it protects water for agriculture. I will support it as long as it doesn’t dry up agriculture. I live and breathe agriculture.
“There’s not that many people who understand agriculture,” John Salazar [newly confirmed Director of the State Agriculture Department] said in a meeting Monday with The Pueblo Chieftain’s editorial board. “They think food comes from the grocery store.”[…]
Salazar talks knowledgably about the importance of water to the ag economy, the rising tide of attacks against the livestock industry and the nuances of raising organic products, both on the hoof and from seed. “I will be attending the Southern Rocky Mountain Agricultural Conference and Trade Fair this week in Monte Vista,” Salazar said. “A burning issue there is the battle over establishing subdistricts governing the rights of surface water and well water users. “The potato industry is a multimillion dollar part of the valley’s economy,” he said. The outcome of the struggle “could kill the potato industry.”
Salazar backs efforts to let people know the effects of diverting water from Southern Colorado’s ag community to support urban growth. “We should explain the impact drying up one acre of agricultural land has on the economy,” he said. “No comprehensive study has been done to clearly demonstrate the devastating effects of drying up land.”
More coverage from the Associated Press via The Denver Post. From the article:
Salazar told the Pueblo Chieftain on Monday that too many people think their food comes from a grocery store, not from the people who really grow it. John Salazar says key issues facing Colorado’s agricultural industry include water, pressure from animal rights groups and food-borne illnesses.
“There’s no appetite for anybody in terms of raising taxes,” [Hickenlooper] said. “We have to become more pro-business.” Part of doing that is cutting government red tape, he said. Hundreds of business leaders applauded when he said he wanted to cut permitting times for oil-and-gas operations.
But, Hickenlooper said, it will have to be done carefully, without endangering air and water quality. “We’ll be efficient, but we’re going to hold them (businesses) to the highest standards,” he said.
Pam Kiely, director of Environment Colorado, said environmentalists aren’t automatically opposed to speeding up permits. “What’s important is that we manage the development of our natural resources in a way that keeps our water clean, our air clear, and best protects the health of our local communities,” Kiely said.
“My goals with the administration, and the governor has made it clear, to ensure that rural Colorado is heard,” Salazar said. Noting that farm income and exports have been up in the last two years, Salazar said “we have a window of opportunity to promote agricultural products. There is nothing more beautiful than rural Colorado,” he said…
Based on USDA data, agriculture generates $28 billion in economic activity and supports 110,000 jobs. That includes 37,000 farms and ranches throughout the state. But about 54 percent of those farms and ranches generate less than $10,000 per year in sales, Lipetzky said; and 15 percent generate more than $100,000 per year in sales. Livestock sales make up the largest share of cash receipts, with 58 percent, or $3.3 billion in sales; crops generate another $2.3 billion annually.
The state is a national leader in barley, cantaloupe, lettuce, potatoes, sweet corn and winter wheat, and is the nation`s top producer of millet, Lipetzky said. It also is a leader in the number of cattle and lambs fed, meat processing technology and animal welfare, and Colorado is the number one state for beer brewing.
Exports topped $1.6 billion last year, going to customers in 99 countries; with beef as the top ag export for the state at $550 million and in 2011 estimated to rise to $600 million. That`s due to increased demand through trade agreements with Korea, and new and expanded access in Japan and China.
A growing market in Colorado is agritourism, Lipetzky reported. Nearly 700 farms in Colorado offer agritourism and related recreational activities, which generated $30 million in sales, and the state`s wine industry brought in another $50 million.
As to the jobs that come from ag, Lipetzky said that in more than half of Colorado`s counties, one in 10 jobs come from ag. In 13 of the state`s counties, it`s one in three. The two top counties for ag-related jobs, with more than 50 percent of the jobs in ag, are Washington and Kiowa counties, in Eastern Colorado.
Last year, the department surveyed industry leaders on challenges and opportunities in ag. The top challenge, cited by 37 percent of respondents, is water, which included concerns about multi-state compacts and diversion for non-ag uses…
As to water issues, Salazar said he will be a strong proponent of keeping water on agricultural land and protecting the state`s water rights, although water issues fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural Resources. He also noted that Gov. John Hickenlooper had tapped former ag commissioner John Stulp to be the state`s water czar. “If people have a better understanding” of what makes rural and urban communities work, “there can be greater understanding of working together” on water, Salazar said. “We can`t destroy one area of the state to build another.”
I’m feeling sorry for the new governor. Chasing across the valleys, crossing pass after pass, bracing against twists and turns up and down canyons and gazing out the window at timeless vistas, it must be tough to get psyched for your first official tour of Colorado. Here’s a report from NewsFirst5.com. From the article:
As part of his state wide tour, Governor Hickenlooper made his first official trip to Southern Colorado Sunday with stops in Pueblo and Colorado Springs. He says bringing more growth into the state economy is going to be a tricky task. “The whole state has to be more pro-business, but this is Colorado so we have to hold ourselves to the highest standards of protecting our land and water, making sure we hold our businesses to the highest ethical standards.” he says, “But as we do that we want to be more pro-business.”
More coverage from the Associated Press via CBS Denver:
Hickenlooper began in Edwards in Eagle County. He told the audience made up of hundreds that he wanted their ideas. “This can only really work if we get more people involved, not usual suspects but different suspects,” said Hickenlooper.
Gov. John Hickenlooper is to discuss economic development and job creation Monday afternoon with northern Colorado business leaders, community members and local officials.
The Loveland meeting, which is open to the public, will conclude a four-day tour that Hickenlooper began Friday to promote what the governor calls his “bottom-up economic development plan.” Hickenlooper has proposed local creation of economic development plans for each of Colorado’s 64 counties. Those county plans would then be rolled into 14 regional plans, which collectively would amount to a statewide economic development plan.
Monday’s meeting is set for 3 p.m. in the McKee Community Building at The Ranch, 5280 Arena Circle, Loveland.
Here’s a look at Governor Hickenlooper’s vision for the Department of Natural Resources, from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:
“We’re going to have to focus on making sure that Colorado is open for business and we’re working well with folks in the tourism industry and the oil and gas industry,” he said. The Department of Natural Resource’s, or DNR, 11 divisions oversee state parks, forestry, wildlife, water resources, oil and gas, state land, mining, minerals and enforcement of the state’s natural resources rules and regulations, including new rules created governing in situ leach uranium mining in Northern Colorado.
Under Gov. Bill Ritter, King helped oversee the creation of legislatively mandated oil and gas rules hailed by environmentalists but detested by the energy industry, which said the rules would send jobs to other states. King, who continues as DNR executive director after assuming that position eight months ago in the Ritter administration, said the department’s primary focus is on jobs and economic development. The DNR, he said, will work with state tourism officials to figure out how to use state parks to generate more tourism revenue.
More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):
Costilla County Commissioner Crestina Martinez said residents in her county have only one company that offers both voice and data services. She noted that some people don’t even like to travel over La Veta Pass because its a black hole for service of any kind.
While a fairly solid agricultural economy helped the valley stave off the worst of the recession this year, according to a recent state report, local officials emphasized the problem of connecting some products — such as locally grown food and livestock — to niche markets.
More coverage from John Schroyer writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article
His [Hickenlooper’s] aim, he said, is simple — create jobs. After pointing out that the state is flat broke, and Coloradans aren’t in the mood for a tax hike, he repeated what has become his political mantra. “There’s no other solution than to be more pro-business.” He heard from dozens of area residents Sunday, ranging from self-described “interested citizens” to local CEO’s, government officials, attorneys, activists, teachers, and even a filmmaker.
Gov. John Hickenlooper said during his first State of the State address on Thursday that water will be a priority for his administration, and he believes the state’s first master plan for the future of water use in Colorado is a sturdy foundation…
He praised the Interbasin Compact Committee’s report released last month that for the first time articulated a strategy for sustained availability of water in Colorado. It supports conserving water for agriculture, but balances that with ideas to keep water flowing to urban population hubs. The report called for drastic departures in conservation from the status quo. “It’s not the total solution, but it’s within reach,” Hickenlooper said of the report, which he described as “the essential building blocks of a long-term, viable solution.”
Keeping water available to farmland is key to the state’s future, he said. “You hold highest and most sacred agriculture,” in his water philosophy, Hickenlooper said.
At the same time, ignoring urban needs for water could doom the state’s economy. “The bottom line is if Douglas County runs out of water or Aurora runs out of water and they suspend building permits for a year and that gets into Time or Newsweek, it affects the values of every person’s home in the state,” he said “We’re all joined at the hip already.”
To preserve a water supply that meets the state’s agricultural and urban needs, Hickenlooper wants to explore shifts in thinking, like subsidized rotational fallowing. “They get paid just like they would have, but they don’t farm a piece of land that year,” he said. “Ranchers and farmers are pretty receptive to this.”
Colorado’s future depends upon how we cultivate our intellectual treasures and our natural resources. Much attention has been devoted to a debate about energy, the right balance between developing natural gas, coal and renewable energies.
But the natural resource that may, in the end, have the greatest impact on Colorado’s economic growth, is water.
A recent report by the Inter-Basin Compact Committee makes clear that a “status quo” approach to water will inevitably lead to pressures that harm our environment and dry up precious agricultural land. We cannot let that happen.
The IBCC and other water leaders and stakeholders across Colorado are ready to work in a comprehensive way to develop strategies, especially conservation, to ensure that our cities and rural communities are both protected.
We want this effort close to the Governor’s Office but to send a clear and unambiguous message that water is a top priority in this administration.
We’ll take this ethic of collaboration and the search for common-ground to other issues besides water. Protecting our environment, keeping our air clean, conserving the natural beauty that defines Colorado – these are values we cherish and we won’t sacrifice them.
In this regard, we are surely on the right path as we implement legislation that was signed into law last year, the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act. This law places Colorado at the forefront in reducing pollutants, creating jobs and while it hasn’t been without controversy, we shouldn’t move backwards.
…Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper has named Mr. Stulp to the important position as chairman of the Interbasin Compact Committee, which has been developing plans on how to use the state’s limited water resources. As Mr. Stulp noted this week, “Water has always been a critical part of Colorado’s quality of life.”
Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper announced today Mike King will remain Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources.
King was appointed to the position by Gov. Bill Ritter in May 2010 after serving as Deputy Director for more than three years.
“Colorado is known for our spectacular natural beauty, abundant wildlife and unparalleled recreational opportunities,” Hickenlooper said. “Striking the right balance between resource development and conservation is what good stewardship of our natural resources is all about. Mike King has the collaborative skills needed to bring disparate interests together to responsibly manage these resources.”
King, a native of Montrose and an avid hunter and angler, became the Assistant Director for Lands, Minerals and Energy Policy in January 2006 and was appointed as Deputy Director at the Department of Natural Resources in September 2006.
He previously worked in the Policy and Regulation Section at the Colorado Division of Wildlife in various capacities for six years and was an Assistant Attorney General from 1993 to 1999.
“As a native Coloradan I have a deep respect for everything that makes our state great,” King said. “From the Western Slope to the Eastern Plains, Colorado is a land with incredible vistas. I am honored at this appointment and look forward to fulfilling Gov.-elect Hickenlooper’s promise to responsibly balance conservation and development of our natural resources.”
King, who lives in Parker, earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Colorado, a law degree from the University of Denver and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Colorado at Denver Graduate School of Public Affairs.
John Stulp, who has been the Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture since 2006, has been named special policy adviser on water to newly elected Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Former Congressman John Salazar of Manassa has been named the new agricultural commissioner by Hickenlooper.
In his new position, Stulp, a Prowers County farmer and rancher, will be chairman of the Interbasin Compact Committee and will continue to work with the state’s agricultural community, developing policies and solutions on how water is managed statewide.
The Interbasin Compact Committee was established by the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act to bring representatives of the state’s river basins together to address statewide water issues. The 27-member committee encourages dialogue on water, broadens the range of those actively participating in the state’s water decisions and creates a locally driven process where the decision-making power rests with those living in the state’s river basins.
“John Stulp’s service to Colorado’s ranchers, farmers and universities is remarkable,” Hickenlooper said in a news release. “And a cornerstone of that service is his deep understanding of our water resources and the need to manage them carefully and effectively. Most importantly, John understands an age-old truth in the West: whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting. John’s task will be to replace the fighting with collaboration.”
Salazar is a sixth generation southern Colorado farmer and rancher and was a three-time Congressman representing the state’s third district. Prior to that, he served two years in the Colorado House. While in Congress, he served on the House Agriculture Committee and played a key role in passing the 2008 Farm Bill.
“I look forward to working with Gov.-elect Hickenlooper and serving the people of Colorado as the Commissioner of Agriculture for the next four years. I am excited about the great possibilities of expanding our energy opportunities along with marketing value-added products and promoting the second-largest economy in Colorado,” Salazar said in a news release.
Hickenlooper takes office next week.
From email from Environment Colorado (Pam Kiely):
Environment Colorado applauds selection of Mike King to direct Department of Natural Resources
The following statement is by Environment Colorado Program Director Pam Kiely regarding the selection of Mike King to direct the Department of Natural Resources
“Mike King is an exceptional choice to continue to lead Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources. With the management of our state’s natural resources one of the most vital roles, it is a smart decision to keep putting Mike’s talent and experience to good use for Colorado.
“Mike is a proven leader, with a track record of success tackling some of the state’s toughest issues over his lengthy tenure at DNR. From helping manage a landmark process to balance strong protection of our land, water, wildlife and public health with traditional resource extraction, to overseeing the creation of critical uranium regulations to protect groundwater from toxic pollution, Mike has made profound progress for our environment while earning the respect and trust of stakeholders across the board.
“Serving first as Deputy Director and then Executive Director in not one, but two previous administrations, Mike has proven to have what it takes to bring people together from across the state and across constituency groups to craft smart solutions for Colorado.
“Environment Colorado applauds Governor-elect Hickenlooper for another strong choice. We look forward to continuing our work with Director King to protect and enhance Colorado’s natural environment, and help safeguard Colorado’s future.”
More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper on Wednesday named San Luis Valley native and former Rep. John Salazar Colorado’s next commissioner of agriculture. Salazar said he will stay in the role for a full term in lieu of running again for Congress. “It’s not a political job — it’s an agricultural job,” Salazar said. “I’ve always loved agriculture, and it’s great being home in Colorado. I believe I can do a good job for agriculture in the state.” Salazar said his vision for the office includes promoting value-added agricultural products like organics and all-natural foods, forging partnerships between the clean-energy sector and farmers and ranchers, and cultivating international markets for Colorado’s agricultural products. Cuba is among the nations where he hopes to peddle the state’s wares.
More coverage from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:
One of the considerations for Salazar accepting Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper’s offer to head up the state agricultural department was the agreement that he could set up a field office in the San Luis Valley and work part of the week out of Denver and the remainder “from home” in the Valley. Concluding three terms in the nation’s capital as U.S. representative for the 3rd Congressional District, Salazar said he had been looking forward to spending more time on the family ranch when he was approached by Hickenlooper to serve in his new cabinet. “I wanted to stay home for a couple of months, but it’s not going to happen,” Salazar said on Wednesday. “It was a tough decision. I love the Valley. I just love it here so much.”
In announcing Salazar’s role in the new administration on Wednesday, Hickenlooper pointed out why Salazar was the perfect candidate for the post. “A thriving agriculture sector is critical to Colorado’s economic recovery,” Hickenlooper said. “Farmers and ranchers are also leading the way as business innovators. Their prosperity helps build a foundation for all of Colorado. And no one has been a more passionate champion for agriculture and rural communities than John Salazar. We are fortunate to have his leadership at the helm of the Department of Agriculture.”
…Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper said he is receptive to adopting water-efficiency standards for state agencies and departments…
“That’s what we did in the city,” Hickenlooper said. “We started asking, ‘Who uses large amounts of water in our city government that we could talk to first?’ ’’ Hickenlooper said that was a change that he implemented as mayor of Denver, and it worked. A chart generated by Denver Water showed that between 1990 and last year Denver reduced its water consumption considerably. Most of the water efficiency was achieved between 2000 and 2010. Hickenlooper became mayor in 2003. At its peak, Denver was devouring more than 220 gallons per person per day. As of last year, that measure had declined to 145 gallons…
“In some of these big issues, like water, I think you have to look at every agency in state government and ask everybody, ‘How are you going to cut your water consumption by 15 or 20 percent?’ ”
The official count of under votes from the Secretary of State in the House District 61 race could still be several days away, but election officials in the five counties represented – Gunnison, Pitkin, Garfield, Eagle and Hinsdale – have reported and by their cumulative tally Independent candidate Kathleen Curry lost the race to Democrat Roger Wilson by fewer than 300 votes. “I’m not close enough to continue the fight,” Curry said Wednesday. “But I feel like this is a temporary setback and this is just the beginning for me.”
“The basic science of the effect of human-produced CO2 on climate change is 150 years old,” said Colorado State University climatologist Scott Denning at the conference called by the League of Conservation Voters. ThinkProgress writer Brad Johnson followed up with Dennis Ojima, chair of Colorado State’s Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, who offered the rhetorical equivalent of burying his face in his hands, aghast.
“Quite simply, there is no hoax in studying climate change.”
Water presents a major challenge, Tancredo and Hickenlooper agreed. But they clash on how to meet future needs.
Hickenlooper cited Denver’s 19 percent reduction of per-capita water use since 2001. Urban providers can cooperate with farmers, perhaps paying them not to plant fields every fifth year so that cities could claim unused water, he said. “Until we really look at where water conservation takes us, we need to be careful about getting too excited about new projects,” Hickenlooper said. “I’m not saying we don’t need some more storage, but it might not be as much storage as people think.”
Tancredo contends new supplies are needed statewide. “We must expand our existing storage capacity, look for opportunities to construct new storage capacity and improve our conservation efforts,” he said. State leaders must review proposed projects, consulting with stakeholders and affected communities, Tancredo said. Enlarging Pueblo Reservoir and the Northern Integrated Supply Project are projects he supports.
Meanwhile the Colorado Conservation Victory Fund is still running radio spots blasting Tom Tancredo for his support of Referendum A in 2003. Here’s a report from David O. Williams writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:
Colorado Conservation Victory Fund first launched the Dr. Seuss-inspired radio spots last week, with its rhyming slam of Tancredo running on 34 stations in 18 counties an average of 5-6 times a day. Now, according to Colorado Conservation Voters Executive Director Pete Maysmith, the spots are back by popular demand and will run through Tuesday’s election. And, actually, Maysmith said he was more inspired by Ed Quillen’s Sept. 30 column in the Denver Post entitled “The Curse of Ref. A.” Quillen’s column detailed the political misfortunes of Republicans who backed the measure, including GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck, who is the subject of a League of Conservation TV ad (video below) on his backing of Referendum A. The poetic tone of the CCV radio spots was just an attempt to counter the doom-and-gloom cacophony of the current election advertising cycle.
And, while incumbents of all political stripes are finding it hard to hold on to their seats in this season of political discontent, it’s Curry’s brand of common sense politics, as opposed to toe-the-line partisan politics, that makes her a breath of fresh air, even as an incumbent. We feel Curry’s move to leave the Democratic Party last year and become an unaffiliated independent legislator, as bold and risky as it was, is exactly what voters are desperately seeking in their elected representatives and candidates this election. In addition, Curry can be counted on to take a consistent and thoughtful stand on the issues that are important to the constituents in her district, not some prescribed platform that may not necessarily serve those interests. She also brings an educated and persuasive point of view on the water issues that affect Colorado as a whole, and, in turn, relate to so many other important issues, from agriculture and energy development to recreation and tourism. Her voice in these matters is invaluable.
Of course the only poll that matters is next week. Here’s a report from The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):
A poll released Sunday by SurveyUSA showed Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican challenger Ken Buck tied. A Pulse Opinion Research poll showed Buck led by 1 point, and a Reuters/Ipsos survey called Buck the leader by 3 percentage points. Each of those polls was conducted in mid-October, around the same time Rasmussen Reports released its most recent update on the race. The Rasmussen poll released showed Bennet had narrowed Buck’s lead to well within the margin of error. Buck led that poll 47 percent to 45 percent.
Meanwhile in the governor’s race John Hickenlooper is still leading according to a report from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
Depending on which poll is to be believed, Democrat John Hickenlooper is either running away with the race for governor or American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo continues to close the gap. Tancredo’s campaign on Monday spotlighted a new survey by the Public Policy Polling group that showed Hickenlooper’s support at 47 percent and Tancredo’s at 44 percent. Only 5 percent supported Republican nominee Dan Maes. A Denver Post/9News poll, also released Monday, showed Hickenlooper to be comfortably in front, with 49 percent supportcomparedwith39 percent for Tancredo. That poll measured Maes’ support at 9 percent. A Magellan poll released Friday showed 44 percent support Hickenlooper, 43 percent support Tancredo and 9 percent support Maes.
With 49 percent of those surveyed backing him, Hickenlooper now has more support than Tancredo and Republican candidate Dan Maes combined. Tancredo, a former Republican congressman, continues to peel off GOP voters, garnering 39 percent, while Maes continues to slide, coming in at 9 percent. Only 1 percent of those polled said they were undecided.
“It`s hard to see how Tancredo changes this game. Even if Maes drops to 5 percent, it isn`t enough,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “Hickenlooper has had the benefit of not having to deal with just one Republican opponent and has kept a low profile, eliminating the chances of making mistakes and starting controversies.”
Most Colorado water watchers remember Referendum A back in 2003. It was an attempt by Governor Owens and others to set aside $2 billion for unspecified water projects. It was the “unspecified” nature of the referendum that stirred up labels like, “Water Grab,” over on the west slope — the rainy side of Colorado. It was defeated in all Colorado counties by a wide margin.
Move on the the governor’s race in 2006. Bill Ritter knew that Referendum A was widely unpopular so he hung the issue around his opponent neck — Bob Beauprez had supported it — and cruised to victory.
Here we are a couple of weeks out in the 2010 gubernatorial contest and lo and behold Referendum A has surfaced again. This time, a group named the Colorado Conservation Victory Fund is running a radio spot on the west slope reminding voters that Tom Tancredo supported the referendum. Here’s a report from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:
The ad is notable because it appears to be the only negative ad against Tancredo from an array of liberal groups that have come out swinging against other conservatives, like U.S. House candidate Scott Tipton and U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck. Democrat John Hickenlooper remains the frontrunner in the governor’s race, but some recent polls have Tancredo within five points of the lead, and his campaign released a poll Friday that showed the race is tied…
The commercial is a series of rhymes that begins with a play on a line from “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” – “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” “Tom Tancredo loved Ref A, and thus it was to our dismay to Denver lawns and pools he’d send our water on its way,” the male narrator says in the ad.
“Sen. Inhofe was the first person to stand up and say this global warming is the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated. The evidence just keeps supporting his view, and more and more people’s view, of what’s going on,” Buck said.
Bennet spokesman Kincaid criticized Buck’s global warming stance.
“The simple fact that Ken Buck doesn’t believe in proven science is troubling and calls into question his understanding of more complex issues. It helps explain why he would oppose developing the new energy economy that would create jobs right here in Colorado.”
More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here. More climate change coverage here.
From the Broomfiled Enterprise (Dylan Otto Krider):
There aren`t many issues that can unite unions, business groups, school boards, charter schools, the Broomfield Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado beef industry, but amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 have done just that, bringing together the seemingly disparate groups in a stance against the ballot measures. They are among the groups that have joined a concerted effort to defeat the measures, which opponents say will cause massive layoffs and prevent future building at a time when schools budgets are shrinking…
Among those who have sent declarations of opposition to the measures to the Enterprise are Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, the Charter Institute, the State Board of Education, the Colorado Cattlemen`s Association and 36 Commuting Solutions. Broomfield City Council and the Broomfield Chamber of Commerce also are in opposition to the measures…
Steve Bobrick, former chairman of the Broomfield Economic Development Corp. board of directors, said the organization has come out against the measures, because building things such as water reservoirs are what lure facilities such as the new Conoco-Phillips training facility, slated to open in 2012 or 2013 at the former Storage Technology campus in Louisville. “You need government to do things most people will not do — take care of fire, police, water,” Bobrick said. Those core services could be in jeopardy if taxes are raised on government enterprises, a move Bobrick called “unprecedented.” Enterprises are cooperative efforts between government and private enterprise, such as universities…
In an investigation of a complaint for campaign finance violations, a Denver judge fingered anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce, a former El Paso County commissioner and state representative, as being behind the effort to collect the more than 400,000 signatures needed to get the initiatives on the ballot. Despite the fact Bruce avoided dozens of attempts to compel him to testify in a deposition, the judge saw enough evidence to conclude Bruce coached petition collectors. Secretary of State records show eight professional signature collectors lived in a Colorado Springs rental house owned by Bruce while they collected 26,000 signatures. The Colorado Springs Gazette reported Bruce was found to have communicated with the petitioners using the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org. Menten said she only became the spokesperson in March or April, and can`t comment on anything that happened before. She characterized the group as “grassroots” and said the language had been crafted by a number of different people.
Meanwhile, Ed Quillen takes a look at some of this year’s ballot amendments in his column in today’s Denver Post. From the article:
Which brings us to the ballot issues this year, which are making me a big fan of the quaint system of having a republic, where we elect people to make laws after hearings and thoughtful deliberation, rather than all this direct democracy.
We can start with Amendment 62, the “personhood amendment,” which would grant full legal rights to fertilized eggs. It’s almost identical to Amendment 48, which was soundly defeated two years ago. Apparently the zygote zealots plan to circulate petitions every two years until we get sick of voting it down and they manage to slip it through. You can have a small, frugal government, or you can have one that monitors every woman of child- bearing age to be sure she’s protecting the legal rights of any fertilized egg she may be carrying. But you can’t have both.
Then, we get to this year’s “Evil Three”: Amendments 60 and 61, along with Proposition 101. They’re assaults on self-government.
For instance, local residents can currently vote to “de-Bruce” their local governments, allowing them to keep tax revenue that would otherwise have to be refunded. It’s hard to see what’s wrong with that — people making decisions about taxes — but Amendment 60 would pretty well put an end to it.
Amendment 61 limits government borrowing. If I’m buying a house, I can decide whether a mortgage of 10, 20 or 30 years would work best. But if I’m a voter, then Amendment 61 says I’m too stupid to make such decisions.
Proposition 101 would roll back auto-license taxes that the legislature increased by calling them “fees” and avoiding a public vote. The honest course would have been to fund highway maintenance by seeking a fuel-tax increase in a referendum. But roads and bridges don’t fix themselves, and the state had to do something.
Q: Would you support expanded use of nuclear energy?
Q: Are you in favor of the Northern Integrated Supply Project (a water project on the northern Front Range)?
Bennet: “I don’t believe that’s a decision for me to make.”
Buck: “Yes. … That’s a decision for me to make, so, yes.” (Bennet interjected, “That’s going to come as news to the people of the region.”)
Q: About “fracking,” Congresswoman DeGette has a bill to require the industry to disclose the chemicals it uses to extract natural gas. Are you in favor of that legislation?
Bennet: “I believe there should be public disclosure of fracking fluids.” (Pressed by Buck, who said, “That wasn’t an answer. Are you in favor of the bill?” Bennet responded, “I haven’t endorsed that bill, but I believe there should be public disclosure of fracking fluids.”)
As Republican whip of the Colorado House, Rep. Gardner consistently has voted for smaller and more responsible government. Before being elected, he was then-U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard’s natural resources aide and even helped to draft legislation for funding the Arkansas Valley Conduit to supply good drinking water to the Lower Arkansas Valley.
Rep. Gardner is committed to represent rural water interests, the ranchers against Pinon Canyon Military Maneuver site expansion and conservative tax and budget policies. In fact, he has been described as a responsible conservative Republican in the mold of former U.S. Sen. and 4th District Rep. Hank Brown.
On protecting the Arkansas Valley’s precious water supply, he’s been steadfast against further water raids by Aurora or any other entity. As a farmer himself who knows how it is to be at the end of an irrigation ditch, he will continue to defend Arkansas Valley farmers who want to maintain their way of life, of being suppliers of vital foodstuff for the rest of us.
Bennet has the potential to lead a bipartisan coalition of centrist U.S. senators who can finally begin tackling the nation’s burdensome debt, the unsustainable entitlement system, and the confusing, unfair tax code while also helping to guide us out of two wars and a deep recession.
Pueblo County and city government officials are facing a tough budget year in 2011, but they don’t even want to imagine the difficulties if state voters approve the tax-cutting ballot measures known as Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101…
But when council asked Finance Director Sam Azad what would be the impact of the three ballot measures, he was blunt: Taken together, the city would lose $10 million in revenue in 2011 and up to 15 to 20 percent of its revenue over the next three years…
Calvin Hamler, Pueblo County’s finance director, said county revenues would shrink by $7.7 million next year if the ballot measures pass. “We’d see a loss of $6.4 million in property taxes alone in the first year,” Hamler said last week…
Proposition 101 would be more expensive, by Azad’s computations. The city would lose $6.7 million in revenue from a list of tax cuts or eliminated fees. The biggest item on the list would be the loss of $3.2 million in lost sales tax on telecommunications, auto sales and rentals.
Looking at the county’s budget for 2011, Hamler said Amendment 60 would cost $6.4 million in property tax revenue and $1.3 million more if Proposition 101 passes as well. While Pueblo city government depends on sales tax revenue, county government leans heavily on property tax receipts.
Hamler is forecasting property tax revenue of $41 million in 2011, but the passage of Amendment 60 would cut that down to $34.6 million.
These issues have broad, bipartisan opposition across both sides of the aisle.
Our State Senator, Al White (R), said, “You know what the contingency for 60, 61 and 101 is? There isn’t one. Move to Wyoming. My position is hell no. No way.”
Add to that State Senator Greg Brophy (R), who said, “It’s like losing your job and getting sick at the same time. I’m for limited government, but not no government.”
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers (R) called these tax-cutting measures “pure anarchy.”
Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway (R) said “these measures make matters much worse in Colorado. They eliminate jobs, keep employers from moving to Colorado and putting people to work and push Colorado deeper in recession.”
The Denver Post, in an editorial against these issues, summed it up with the understanding that 60, 61 and 101 “might be tempting for some voters. But they would be devastating for Colorado.”
The Aurora Sentinel says, “Proposition 101 isn’t just a bad bill, it’s an insidious leap toward catastrophe disguised as economic aid for taxpayers.”
“It’s dangerous to use the citizen initiative process to write fiscal policy into the constitution,” said [Reeves Brown, executive director of Club 20], appearing Thursday in Aspen to give his presentation on the three initiatives to anyone who cared to listen. The audience included county Commissioner Rachel Richards, the county’s representative on the Club 20 board of directors, two newspaper reporters and commissioner candidate Jack Johnson. Brown has been traveling the state to present pie charts, graphs and fiscal projections associated with each of the ballot measures. Next week will take him to Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Pagosa Springs and Durango, he said.
Club 20, a nonpartisan and generally conservative voice for the Western Slope, represents a diverse constituency spread over 22 counties, but the 22-member board of directors voted unanimously last spring to oppose 60, 61 and 101, or the “Bad Three” as opponents call the measures. “When Club 20 speaks and speaks unanimously, that carries some weight,” Brown said…
The potential effects of the measures are complex and difficult to summarize, he said, and a voter who reads only part of the ballot language for the three measures isn’t likely to realize their ramifications. “Collectively, they will put Colorado in a constitutionally mandated recession,” he said.
Tipton has campaigned against earmarks, the special projects that Salazar and other lawmakers put in budget bills for their districts. Salazar was happy to hold up the $5 million he secured this year for the initial funding of the Arkansas Valley Conduit, the pipeline that is intended to take water from Lake Pueblo to communities down the valley.
He said Tipton apparently preferred to “stand idly by” while federal dollars were sent to other states. “Stand idly by?” Tipton answered, saying Salazar had voted for spending bills that helped drive the deficit to $13 trillion. That was greeted by Salazar supporters with shouts of “Bush! Bush!” — a reference to President George W. Bush’s administration. Pressing on, Tipton said he would support the conduit too, “But we also need to look out for our wallets.”
More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:
The Chieftain of Pueblo sponsored the debate. The newspaper has long advocated for the protection of the area’s water, and the first two questions centered on water issues. “The Salazars have never walked away from a water fight,” Salazar said, noting that he fought the 2003 water bonds known as Referendum A.
Tipton also said he would fight for water, but he would oppose earmarks in Congress, even for popular local projects like an Arkansas Valley water system.
“I think you as American citizens deserve to be dealt with squarely. Let’s have a straight-up vote,” Tipton said.
Salazar said he was proud that he secured an earmark for the Arkansas Valley project, and he will not stop seeking earmarks for his district.
“(Tipton) would rather sit idly by and allow California and New York to fight for that funding. I went to Washington to fight for the 3rd Congressional District, and I will fight to the death,” Salazar said.
Tipton replied that the federal debt is already too large to allow more spending without also making cuts.
As mayor, and as a former private entrepreneur, he has been able to shrink the size of Denver’s government. He promises to do likewise as governor…
During a Chieftain-sponsored forum in Pueblo this week, Mr. Hickenlooper stated that “we should make sure every drop of water in the Arkansas (River) stays there. We import so much of our oil, just think about if we start importing our food. We have to make sure that resource is protected.”
A farmer and rancher from Manassa, Salazar has supported agricultural issues for years. “I used to serve on the Rio Grande Water Conservation District when we fought these big multi-million dollar corporations that were trying to dry up agriculture and move the water to the Front Range,” Salazar said. “It was then I was asked to run for the state legislature, because it was when Governor Owens wanted to run what was called Referendum A. It was a $10 billion bonding authority to build water projects, but nobody talked about where that water was going to come from. We knew for a fact it would be water that would dry up farms and would be moved to the urban areas. I’ve been a strong supporter of protecting agriculture in Colorado and it was shortly after that that my predecessor decide to retire from Congress, so I was asked to run for that seat, and we were just coming off that big referendum win where I led a bipartisan coalition of state legislators across the entire state, and we won that referendum in every single county in the state at the editorial board level, basically.”
One of his biggest accomplishments, he said, is finally helping to secure funding for the Arkansas Valley conduit. It’s a project to provide water to the lower Arkansas valley communities. President Kennedy signed the original authorization back in 1962. “What ended up happening is that was never funded. After 50 years we got that done and I’m very proud of that,” Salazar said.
On water, Tancredo called for a balance between rural and urban interests in the state. He said conservation is a necessity. Maes said more water storage options are needed, and exploring the leasing of water rights that might deter sales that diminish the fabric of rural areas. He favors encouraging that water be kept in the part of the state where it originates.
Hickenlooper took a global view of water in Colorado. “I understand there are a lot of arguments about who owns the water in Colorado,” Hickenlooper said. “There are thousands of lawyers that make a living on it in court. Metaphorically, I think you could say the waters of Colorado belong to all of Colorado. If agriculture is the muscle of Colorado, water is the lifeblood.” He noted that he appoints the Denver water board. “We have been able to cut the consumption of water by 20 percent in the Denver metro area. If you’re selling millions of gallons of water, you have to replace the water in the pump. I say perhaps what makes Denver Denver is that it’s in Colorado, and that we should make sure every drop of water in the Arkansas (River) stays there. “We import so much of our oil, just think about if we start importing our food. We have to make sure that resource is protected. “We have to make sure that the ones with resources don’t buy off the weakest in the herd. I think by collaborating, we can solve this.”
Buck told the board he would not hesitate to battle anyone in Washington who interferes with Colorado water projects or reasonable economic development efforts. He wants to make it known to the military establishment that El Paso County is military-friendly. He has spent a substantial amount of time in El Paso County and exudes concern for southern Colorado. Vote for Ken Buck, a reasonable, moderate candidate who plans to succeed for all of Colorado.
The contest between U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey, a Democrat, and state Rep. Cory Gardner, a Republican, in the 4th Congressional District offers voters what sometimes is only an ideal: good candidates with clearly defined positions, beliefs and differences. We believe that Gardner more accurately reflects the majority of citizens in the 4th District and that he should be elected…
Gardner has won admiration for his work at the Legislature, where he served on the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Livestock Committee. As the future unfolds across the 4th District, there will be pressure on all levels of government because of expected population growth along the Northern Front Range. It will take a steady and imaginative member of Congress, one with deep roots in the district, to effectively represent this vast area.
The former Denver Public Schools superintendent and former business associate of theater and railroad owner Phil Anschutz has been a quick study. Not surprisingly, education has been one of his specialties. But so, too, has been the national economy. Bennet is persuasive when he speaks about the need for a cap on nondefense discretionary spending and the importance of reducing the federal debt to reduce the amount of interest the government pays. On fiscal issues, Bennet has challenged his fellow Democratic party members…Bennet has made several trips through Southwest Colorado and has shown himself to be accessible. Michael Bennet deserves a full term in the U.S. Senate.
Hickenlooper jumped from an airplane to promote Referendum C, which four years ago gave the state some relief from overly crushing tax reduction, and he has stood soaking wet in shirt and tie for a photographer after trying out a Denver neighborhood swimming pool. Hickenlooper has the business and government background – and the visibility and strength of a good leader – to best position Colorado to emerge from the recession. John Hickenlooper is the best choice for Colorado governor.
He was an oil and gas geologist who was laid off during the energy bust that so devastated the Western Slope in the 1980s. He started a business — Colorado’s first brew pub — that was successful even before Coors Field arrived in the neighborhood. For the past seven years he has been mayor of Denver, a government with a general fund budget of $855 million. And he has presided over massive budget cuts the past few years. Furthermore, he has ideas for job creation and getting the state through the current economic crisis that we believe make sense for Colorado right now…
Hickenlooper has a lengthy list of proposals for economic development and job creation. They include:
—Consolidating small business programs in one state agency.
—Providing small business owners with assistance in accessing the many state programs already available to aid them.
—Working with community leaders throughout the state to boost or establish economic development programs focused on regional needs and attributes, not state ones.
—Using incentives already on the books, as well as new collaborative efforts, to retain, attract and expand existing large businesses. This includes greater recognition of and collaboration with the military institutions in the state.
—Building on this state’s record for entrepreneurship and technological expertise to promote a national and global reputation for Colorado as an innovation state. He asked, “Why not put on the logo of products developed here, ‘Imagined and designed in Colorado’?”
Hickenlooper’s experience in business and as an elected public executive, combined with his ideas for the future, make him the best candidate to lead this state now.
Denver Water operates numerous dams and facilities in 13 different counties. All the public waterworks have been exempt from paying taxes since Colorado became a state in 1876. But that changes if 60 gets passed by the voters. Calculations by Denver Water show the utility would quickly face a $20 million tax bill. To cover the extra expenses, Denver Water says it has no choice but to immediately raise rates by 10 percent for all customers. That’s on top of all the other expenses Denver is facing with replacement of aging pipelines and wildfire mitigation around reservoirs. “You have people drafting a measure that don’t fully understand its impact,” Tate said…
Amendment 61 is also opposed by the Denver Water Board. It beliefs the initiative would hurt the utility’s ability to issue long term bonds. The impact to customers from Amendment 61 would be an additional 7 to 10 percent rate increase over the next 10 years according to Denver Water.
Here’s the Denver Water resolution in opposition to the Amendments.
Here’s an analysis of the measures from Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:
Opponents say the three would cut a wide swath of devastation across Colorado, imperiling the quality of everything the government does, from fighting crime to teaching children.
More coverage from The Aspen Times (Ivan Moreno). From the article:
The net effect, once fully implemented, would cost the state $2.1 billion in revenue annually and still require an additional $1.6 billion in spending on public education, according to an analysis (pdf) by the independent Colorado Legislative Council…
“It will plunge Colorado into another recession,” said Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. “And what will make it so unique in the history of our state is that it will be a voter-approved recession.”[…]
The proposals would force the state to devote 92 percent of its budget on constitutionally required K-12 education funding, leaving little for higher education, human services and prisons and everything else, according to the report…
In Colorado, Amendment 60 would drastically cut school district property taxes between 2011 and 2020 and force the state to make up the difference. Amendment 61 would prohibit the state from borrowing money for public works projects, including school construction — and local governments could borrow only with voter approval and if the debt is repaid within 10 years. Finally, Proposition 101 would cut the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 3.5 percent over a period of years. It would cut annual auto registration to $10 per vehicle and exempt the first $10,000 of a vehicle’s sales price from sales tax. And it would reduce telecommunication fees.
Without the ability to borrow, the state would be unable to bond any new construction, improvements or maintenance, the analysts said.
More coverage from the Delta County Independent (Pat Sunderland). From the article:
[Dave Laursen, chairman of Montrose Citizens for Funding Our Future] agreed that it was a mistake to raise revenue for transportation projects by labeling the increase “fees” rather than “taxes,” but said Proposition 101 will take the state back to 1919 rates “when there weren’t many roads in the state of Colorado.” Through that provision of Proponent 101 alone, CDOT’s transportation budget will be reduced by about 25 percent, he said. Specific ownership tax reductions, which are to be phased in over four years, will affect 25 taxing agencies in Delta County, he added. “That’s a $2.7 million reduction for agencies like the cemetery districts, water districts, ambulance district, school, county and cities.” For the ambulance district, [Linda Lowitz, a member of the Delta County Ambulance District board] said, the cut in revenue equates to two paramedics. State grants and state funding would also be at risk, she believes.
[Joe Kerby, Delta city manager] said the City of Delta would see “significant” revenue reductions in the general fund, citywide capital improvement fund and rec center fund. The first year, that revenue reduction would total more than $500,000, he said. By 2014, when Proposition 101 is fully implemented, city revenues will be down nearly $700,000.
And then there is Paul Krugman writing in The New York Times:
We are no longer the nation that used to amaze the world with its visionary projects. We have become, instead, a nation whose politicians seem to compete over who can show the least vision, the least concern about the future and the greatest willingness to pander to short-term, narrow-minded selfishness.
The sponsors of Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, also known as the “Dr. Evil Initiatives,” had to endure some uncomfortable questioning as well as fines after it was discovered they may have had ties to TABOR author Doug Bruce who has denied any hand in the budget-strangling measures.
Petition proponents for Amendment 60 are Bonnie Sloan of Black Hawk and Louis Schroeder of Greenwood Village. Proponents of 61 are Russell Haas of Golden and Michelle Northrup, also of Black Hawk. Proposition 101 was proposed by Jeff Gross, a house painter from Kersey, Co., and Freda Poundstone of Centennial. Schroeder, Haas and Gross were all ordered to pay fines of $2,000 each by Colorado Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer after a complaint was filed alleging violations of fair campaign finance and practice laws as they failed to register as issue committees and failed to report financial contributions. The Colorado Court of Appeals received an appeal on July 21 regarding all three cases, and they are set to be heard on October 18.
And now some special districts, including Parker Water and Sanitation District, are considering pre-emptive borrowing with the specter of the “Bad Three” passing. Here’s a report from Carlos Illescas writing for The Denver Post. From the article:
That has districts such as the Parker Water and Sanitation District working quickly to borrow more than $50 million through the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority to build a water-treatment facility. The Parker water board is expected to vote on the issue at next week’s meeting. Mary Spencer, president of the Parker water board, said it makes sense to do it now so that those who pay property taxes will be able to pay off the money over more time, such as 20 or 30 years instead of 10, and the payments won’t be as high. “We as a district are taking the necessary steps on the harmful effects of Amendment 61 if it passes,” Spencer said…
The Thunderbird Water and Sanitation District, a district that serves about 175 homeowners in the Indian Creek Ranch area southwest of Sedalia, is seeking voter approval on two measures to borrow about $875,000 a year.
On average, it would cost a homeowner an extra $300 to $400 a year, or about $30 a month, said David Gaige, vice president of the board. The money would be used to acquire groundwater rights, store the water and distribution costs. Gaige said that when the district board learned of Amendments 60 and 61, it decided that going for it now with less restrictions on the loans was better for all of its residents. “We would have to pay off the loan in 10 years instead of 20 years. That would be that much harder to get approved,” he said. “It puts the burden on the people right now when the people in the future would benefit.”
From email from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District:
The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District board of directors unanimously approved a resolution advocating voter opposition of Amendments 60 and 61, and Proposition 101, which will appear on the statewide ballot in November. The board stated its strongest opposition to the initiatives and noted the concern being expressed nationally, citing a September 20 New York Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/us/politics/21colorado.html).
“The best interest of our customers is at the heart of this resolution,” explained board Chairman Bob Warner. “The financial impact of these three measures, separately or collectively, will severely limit the District’s ability to maintain, upgrade, or extend water and sewer services within our boundaries. These ballot measures will impair our ability to continue operating as a sound fiscal steward of public funds, a role in which this board prides itself.”
The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District owns and operates the public water systems which provide a safe and reliable supply of drinking water for customers from Vail to Edwards. The resolution states that the District will not have a practical means of borrowing money to construct and maintain water and sewer lines, wells, or wastewater treatment plants, such as those located in Vail, Avon, and Edwards, which treat sewage in an environmentally responsible manner.
Noting Colorado’s constitutional requirement of balanced government budgets, the board considered specific effects on District customers before passing the resolution. “I’m concerned that if 60, 61, and 101 pass, they force immediate and significant increases in customer service fees,” stated Debbie Buckley, board Secretary, noting that the revenue losses associated with the ballot measures would manifest themselves as immediate 20-25 percent customer rate increases.
Both Amendment 60 and Proposition 101 would result in District revenue losses, as they drastically cut property and vehicle taxes, respectively. Additionally, Amendment 60 would require the District to pay property taxes from which it was previously exempt.
Becky Bultemeier, District Customer and Financial Services Manager, said the likely extreme rate increase is contrary to District operations strategy. “Current District operations were developed to meet customer expectations, maintain stable service fee rates, and provide reliable water and sewer service. The projected rate increases are completely at odds with our financial philosophies, but will be required simply to maintain our basic services and infrastructure.”
The District carefully follows State budget laws, holding annual public hearings for budget approval; the District’s budget expires at year’s end, and any modifications require additional public hearings. Despite careful budgeting, the size and scope of some District projects require borrowing money.
“The District’s ‘growth pays for growth’ philosophy will no longer be feasible under Amendment 61,” noted Bultemeier. “With only a ten-year debt limit, necessary maintenance and upgrade projects will require immediate payment by current customers, despite benefitting future ones, and could double the cost of these projects if payment is required now.”
Before passing the resolution, District directors carefully considered the impacts of the measures according to independent analysis and web-based studies (online at http://www.donthurtcolorado.com).
The adverse impacts of these initiatives would be felt at both the local and state level. The District joins other local entities that have passed similar resolutions in opposition, including Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, the Towns of Avon, Vail, and Gypsum, Colorado Mountain College, Eagle River Fire Protection District, Beaver Creek Metropolitan District, and Eagle Valley Library District. The District board also noted the range of groups statewide that have voiced opposition, including Colorado Association of Realtors, Associated General Contractors of Colorado, Club 20, Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, Colorado Association of Home Builders, Colorado Restaurant Association, and numerous chambers of commerce, town councils, religious and professional organizations.
“The passage of any one of these ballot measures would severely and negatively impact District operations and our customers,” Warner noted. “It’s hard to imagine the full scope of the effects if all three passed.”
One of her proudest legislative accomplishments, she said, was sponsoring a bill that changed the complexion of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which oversees the industry. Before the reforms, the commission was comprised of seven members, five of whom were industry representatives, she said. Now there are nine members, three of whom are from the industry. “That was a total shift in how we should regulate [the industry] and that was really a great thing,” she said…
If she is sent back to the Legislature, Curry said she would like to sponsor a bill regarding the Colorado River Compact that would better protect Colorado water interests in the event of a “call” from downstream states. “There are a couple of things we can do to protect our interests in the event of a shortage in [Lake] Powell and [Lake] Mead,” she said.
Salazar has shown an ability to work with people from differing political views to seek solutions that work for the district. In significantly advancing the prospects for a veterans’ cemetery in the Pikes Peak region, Salazar, an Army veteran, has worked with Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn and former Sen. Wayne Allard, and more recently with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. He also managed to get a $6 million appropriation for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which will bring clean drinking water to 40 cities and towns along the 140-mile pipeline. The promise of clean drinking water to these poorer communities was made in the 1960s. It’s about time that promise is kept.
Salazar’s challenger in the race, Scott Tipton, is a conservative Republican and Cortez businessman who lost to Salazar by a wide margin in 2006. Tipton, a state lawmaker who also has deep roots in the district, is knowledgeable about the issues, and touts his private sector experience. He’s clearly qualified for the job.
We just think voters in the 3rd district will be better off with Salazar, a known quantity and reliable voice for the district.
Here’s the link to the guide. Here’s a report from the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Janet Urquhart). From the article:
The conservancy polled candidates seeking election to six different seats that represent part or all of the Roaring Fork Valley, asking each of them the same two questions (one question has two parts, so there are really three questions) and publishing their unedited responses. The conservancy is not endorsing any candidates, noted Rick Lofaro, executive director, but wanted citizens to hear the candidates’ views in advance of the Nov. 2 election. “Oftentimes, water is not part of the political discussion when candidates are running. It’s often overlooked,” he said. In his introduction to the guide, Lofaro notes that projections show Colorado’s population doubling by 2050 and water shortfalls approaching 600,000 acre feet per year, statewide, by 2030. That shortfall is enough water for 1.2 million families of four for a year, he writes.
Both men [Michael Bennet and Ken Buck] said they wanted to protect rural water supplies but Bennet made a point of having supported the $5 million budget appropriation to begin work on the Arkansas Valley Conduit, a planned water pipeline from Lake Pueblo to 40 communities down the valley. Congress authorized the project in 1962 but had never appropriated money until this year.
Buck dismissed that to the crowd. “(Bennet) stood up and took credit for a conduit that others had worked on for 10 years,” he said.
More coverage from The Denver Post (Michael Booth):
After Bennet said he was proud to help the Congressional delegation and local leaders secure clean water and protect Arkansas River rights, Buck tried to force Bennet’s opinion on a controversial Northern Colorado reservoir project. Buck supports the plan, Bennet has not taken a position. “He took credit where he wanted to,” Buck said, “But then when he wants to duck an issue like (northern Colorado), he says the federal government doesn’t have any role.”
More coverage from the Associated Press (Kristen Wyatt):
For the first time, the Senate hopefuls also sparred over Colorado water. Buck backed the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a divisive proposal to capture water from the Cache la Poudre and South Platte rivers for a new reservoir north of Fort Collins. Bennet hasn’t taken a position on the project. The two disagreed over the role of the federal government in Colorado water disputes. Bennet said the federal government should stay out of intrastate water disputes, while Buck said, “It’s one of the places the federal government should have a role.”
More coverage from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):
[Ken] Buck, listed as a supporter of Referendum A, the water-storage measure that sunk a class of Colorado Republicans after it was defeated in 2003, said he remains a supporter of water-storage projects. “We keep sending water out of the state,” he said. “We shouldn’t do that.” The federal government shouldn’t be the only player in water storage, Buck said. Business interests also can play a role, he said.
Proposition 101 would do much more than put FASTER in reverse. It would cut auto-registration fees to almost nothing, cut the state income tax by nearly 25 percent and eliminate almost all telephone fees and taxes. “The total impact of 101 on the state budget, in a word, it’s devastating,” said Carol Hedges of the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute.
The state income-tax rate now stands at 4.63 percent. Proposition 101 would cut it to 4.5 percent, with 0.1 percent drops every year personal income grows by a certain amount until the tax rate hits 3.5 percent. When fully implemented, Coloradans’ state income tax bills would be nearly a quarter lower than they are now. That translates to $1.2 billion that is currently used for schools, prisons, courts and health care going to tax cuts instead, Hedges said. The first year’s cuts would total at least $130 million in a state budget that is already more than $1 billion in the hole. Local school districts would lose millions of dollars just from the lower car ownership taxes, according to the Bell Policy Center, a left-leaning group…
An average vehicle owner in La Plata County pays $82.06 in ownership taxes per year, plus license fees of $55.70. Proposition 101 knocks the tax down to $1 for used cars or $2 for new cars. License fees would be cut to $10. The county’s three school districts now get $2.7 million from the fee. Under 101, they would share just $39,000. La Plata County’s government would lose more than $1.7 million, and special districts such as fire departments would lose nearly $1.3 million, according to the Bell Policy Center. Archuleta County School District 50-Jt would lose more than $500,000, and Montezuma County’s three school districts would share a loss of more than $1.5 million.
Rick Reiter, head of Coloradans for Responsible Reform, chided the sponsors of Proposition 101 and its companion amendments, 60 and 61, for not consulting with anyone at the Legislature, business groups or budget experts before they wrote their proposals. “They just sit in a room. They create this stuff as if it’s magic dust,” Reiter said at a Grand Junction debate on Sept. 11. Reiter leads a coalition the size of which the state has rarely seen – school advocates, liberal groups, Republican leaders, chambers of commerce, water utility boards across the state. The coalition has put together a $5.7 million budget to fight the three measures.
More coverage from Charlotte Burroughs writing for the Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:
“On 60 and 101, we’re projected to take about $131,000 hit the first year,” said finance officer Sonny Barnes during the Florence City Council meeting Monday. “That’s also based on interpretation on Amendment 60, which talks about organizations that have ‘deBruced.’ It depends on if we have to just ratchet down going into next year.” The numbers may change if the city has to go backwards, based on when the city actually “deBruced.” “If we have to go backwards ….., we’re looking at an additional $90,000,” Barnes said.
Lamm pressed Hickenlooper on his promises to be friendly to business, asking which regulations he would change. Hickenlooper pointed to the gas and oil rules adopted in 2008. Most of them work, but some were too burdensome without being helpful, he said. The only specific example he gave was a rule that requires produced water from coal-bed methane to be injected into the ground. It doesn’t make sense for the area around Trinidad, he said. Hickenlooper thinks it is important to have an inclusive process for adopting new rules for businesses. “Find a place where those being regulated are satisfied,” as well as people who want tighter rules, he said.
Meanwhile, here’s a report on polling in the governor’s race from The Denver Daily News. From the article:
The Colorado governor’s race is increasingly looking like a contest between Democrat John Hickenlooper and independent Tom Tancredo, according to Rasmussen. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Colorado voters shows Hickenlopper still ahead with 43-percent support, but Tancredo now earns 35 percent of the vote, his best showing so far. Republican candidate Dan Maes trails with 16 percent. One percent like another candidate in the race, and five percent are undecided. The survey of 750 Likely Voters in Colorado was conducted on Oct. 3.
SurveyUSA conducted the recorded-voice poll of likely voters Tuesday through Thursday…
Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, which opponents have dubbed “the ugly three” as part of an expensive ad campaign, were polling abysmally. The three measures on the November ballot would cut billions in state and local taxes, prohibit all state borrowing and severely limit local debt. A coalition of businesses, labor groups and nonprofit organizations opposes the measures, which also are roundly opposed by most elected officials regardless of party. The poll showed 10 percent of likely voters supported Amendment 60, which would cut property taxes, while 48 percent opposed the measure and 42 percent said they were not certain. Similarly, 10 percent supported Amendment 61, which would bar state borrowing and limit local debt, while 49 percent opposed the initiative and 40 percent said they were unsure. Meanwhile, 12 percent of poll respondents said they were supporting Proposition 101, which would cut income taxes and vehicle and phone fees, while 44 percent opposed it and 44 percent were unsure.
The three measures are dead, said Denver political analyst Eric Sondermann. “I think these three initiatives have been successfully branded as way, way outside the pale,” Sondermann said. “Voters are in an angry mood. They’re in a disenfranchised mood. They’re in an alienated mood. “But they’re not in a crazy mood.”
More coverage from The Colorado Statesman (Marianne Goodland). From the article:
Former state budget director Henry Sobanet of Colorado Strategies did one of the estimates on the job losses that could result from passage of the three measures. He wrote in a July white paper that K-12 education could be the biggest loser, with 21,448 jobs lost; general construction could lose 20,744 jobs; general government, which includes local and state government, could lose 13,359 jobs; health care could drop 11,761 jobs; and transportation could lose 5,814 jobs.
In terms of revenue impacts, according to Sobanet’s report, Amendment 60 would require the state to cover $1.2 billion in lost mill levy revenues that would support K-12 education; Amendment 61 would cost the state more than $2 billion in lost public finance, and Amendment 101 would cost state and local governments about $2.3 billion in lost sales and income tax revenue. Amendment 60 amends the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights in Colorado’s Constitution. It would reduce local property taxes for public schools’ operating expenses by 50 percent over 10 years and require the state to cover that lost funding. It also would require publicly-owned enterprises to pay property taxes. The largest of those enterprises is Colorado’s public colleges and universities that collectively hold more than $6 billion in property assets.
Amendment 61, which also amends TABOR, prohibits the state from issuing bonds for long-term needs, such as road and building construction; borrowing for short-term needs, such as day-to-day operations; and borrowing for lease-to-own purposes, primarily for new buildings or equipment. It also would prevent enterprises, such as public colleges and universities, from issuing bonds to finance new buildings. Proposition 101 is a statutory change that has constitutional implications. It would reduce or eliminate taxes and fees on vehicle registration, leases, rentals and purchases; eliminate taxes and fees for telecommunication services. It also would reduce the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.5 percent beginning in 2011, and eventually to 3.5 percent.
While Proposition 101 is a statutory change, its reduction of the state income tax could not be overturned without voter approval, due to TABOR. In addition, Proposition 101 requires voter approval for any increase in taxes or fees for vehicle or telecommunication services…
Amendment 61 is especially dangerous, perhaps even insidious, said John Beeble, president of Saunders Construction. Because the amendment uses “borrowing” instead of “bonding, people think it has something to do with overspending in Washington,” Beeble said, but what it really does is end publicly-financed construction projects. “Colorado will be the only state that prohibits the use of bonding and revenue notes,” Beeble said. “I don’t want to be in that state.” Beeble also noted that had Amendment 61 been in place in the past, the TRANS project that funded T-Rex and other transportation projects could not have happened, nor could the building of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. “Bonding is a responsible way to fund public infrastructure such as roads, dams, airport, light rail, school, college buildings and water treatment facilities,” Beeble told reporters. “The people behind 61 want to take bonding off the table and [that will cost] 21,000 jobs in small businesses — painters, pavers, plumbers, architects and electricians — who make large projects happen in Colorado.”
More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:
There’s a difference between financing and deficit spending, [Dan Hopkins, spokesman for Coloradans for Responsible Reform] said. The state and local governments already have to have balanced budgets.
More coverage from the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Armstrong and Tonya Bina). From the article:
But, if 101 passes, the hurt would be felt across the county, according to Grand County Director of Accounting Scott Berger, who said Proposition 101 could reduce county revenues by $500,000, cutting support primarily to Grand County’s road and bridge department. The full combined effects of 101 impact Grand Lake by an estimated $46,455 in the first year while the Town of Winter Park predicts that it will lose almost $198,000 in the first year alone from Prop 101, according to a report complied by Finance Director Bill Wengert. Winter Park might not have to shut the doors, but putting that first-year total in perspective, Grand Lake’s total road maintenance budget in 2010 is $45,000, according to Grand Lake Town Manager Shane Hale. And for towns like Granby, income from franchise fees alone, which amount to $35,000, are the equivalent to the wages of one town employee, pointed out Granby Town Manager Wally Baird.
Hale calls the measures a “race to the bottom.” “Let’s see how quickly this state can get under states like Arkansas for the least favorable public perception,” he said.
The Bell Policy Center quantified the impact to Colorado communities if Proposition 101 passes in November, cutting property taxes and vehicle and telecommunication fees.
When fully implemented, Proposition 101 would eliminate $1.7 billion a year in state revenue for road maintenance, emergency medical services, colleges and services to low-income and disabled citizens. Local governments would be deprived of funds for schools, road and bridge maintenance and libraries, it said…
Together with Amendments 60 and 61, Proposition 101 would place stringent limits on governments’ collection of taxes and ability to borrow and spend. Bell’s analysis of the impact showed that $3.84 million a year that goes to Pueblo County’s budget evenutally would shrink to $65,816, and the city of Pueblo’s funding would be cut from $1.06 million to $18,143. Funding to libraries in Pueblo County would dip from $652,513 today to $11,195. The local contribution to Pueblo City Schools would fall from the current $161 per student to $2.76 per student in 15 years or so. At School District 70, the contribution from local fees and property taxes would dip from today’s $240 per student to $4.11. School districts in surrounding counties would see per-pupil annual revenue streams strangled similarly: Canon City from $304 to $6.08, Florence from $422 to $8.44, Cotopaxi from $764 to $15.27; East Otero $298 to $6.94; Rocky Ford from $203 to $4.73, Manzanola from $127 to $2.96; Fowler from $277 to $6.45; Cheraw from $125 to $2.91; Swink from $315 to $7.34; Trinidad from $224 to $3; Primero from $1,650 to $21; Hoehne from $532 to $7; Aguilar from $555 to $7; Branson from $57 to $1 and Kim from $623 to $8.
Pueblo County’s two school districts currently receive $4.73 million annually from the fees that the proposition would impact. That amound would be cut to $81,063. The $1 million that Canon City School District receives now from local property taxes and fees would shrink to $20,709. And Florence School District’s $591,924 would shrivel to $11,834; Cotopaxi’s $164,423 would wane to $3,287. Funding for Las Animas County’s general fund would fall from $727,999 to $9,240. That county’s ambulance district funding would fall from $186,136 to $2,363, and its fire district’s current $163,386 would plummet to $2,074.
“We have to get serious about water,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes said during a debate Saturday. When the Colorado Independent asked Democratic nominee John Hickenlooper on Friday what campaign issue was not getting enough coverage, his answer was “water.”[…]
Everybody knows water is an issue in the West. Hickenlooper brags regularly that Denver has cut per capita water use by nearly 20 percent during his tenure. According to The Times, Phoenix and Las Vegas have each made similar cuts in usage. Hickenlooper said he expects Denver consumption to continue going down. The fact that Denver has a legal right to a certain amount of water does not mean Denver should use it all, he said. Hickenlooper said some of the things that make Denver a great place to live require that other places in the state have water as well. In the past he has pointed to some of the recreational uses that Denverites rely on water for — such as fishing, skiing and whitewater rafting. At a debate recently in Loveland, he also pointed out that Denver needs the state’s agricultural community to have plenty of water so that people in the state can eat fresh, locally grown food. Toward that end, he said, it is important that Denver not use water just because it can.
Maes hasn’t always made a lot of sense when he’s talked about water, but he has the right idea: water will define Colorado’s future.
American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo said a couple of weeks ago that Colorado has excess water storage capacity that isn’t being used because of environmental regulations and federal interference.
Hickenlooper, the mayor of Denver, said he wasn’t aware that the state had excess capacity, but did say it is very important that Colorado keeps all the water in the state that it is legally able to keep. “We need to make sure we control” all the water it is in the state’s power to control, he said.
Here are the impacts Amendment 60 would have on the City of Ouray:
Amendment 60 could be the most devastating to Ouray services.
• The reduction of significant (50 percent) funding to Ouray Schools could force our school board to face some tough choices:
• Combining Ouray and Ridgway schools, resulting in lay-offs of teachers and causing larger class sizes,
• Lowering teachers’ already low salaries, resulting in not being able to keep good teachers,
• Reducing school office staff,
• Elimination of sports programs,
• Elimination of industrial arts and specialty classes,
• Lack of funding for school library,
• The dream of ever having the money to enlarge the school.
The stipulation that the state must backfill school funding seems impossible. A state budget that has already been trimmed to the bone because of the recession and the reduction of over $1 billion to the state budget if Proposition 101 passed, would make it impossible that the state could ever come up with the funding.
• Because all government entities would be forced to pay property tax, Ouray could have to pay property tax on City Hall, Community Center, Box Canon Falls Park, Children’s ski hill, Sewer treatment plant, both water storage tanks, Weehawken Springs area, Ouray Hot Springs Pool, Fellin Park, Rotary Park, and the Woman’s Club Park.
Due to the fact that Colorado’s business property tax rate is three times that of the residential property tax rate, this could equate to millions of dollars in property tax that the city would have to pay.
• Because of these additional property taxes that would have to be paid by the city if this Amendment 60 passed, Ouray residents, our visitors and utility users could possibly face:
• Significantly higher rates to use the hot springs pool, decreasing the usage of the pool, thus bringing in less money to the city,
• Local residents/children no longer being admitted to Box Canyon or pool free
• Significantly higher water and sewer rates
• The pool being closed in the winter
• Having to sell park property or vacant land owned by the city,
• Decreased maintenance levels for our beautiful parks and other city facilities.
• Because state authorities and enterprises (such as state universities, hospitals, etc.) will also have to pay property taxes, residents in Ouray and the rest of Colorado can expect to pay significantly higher college tuition, hospital bills, fishing and hunting license fees, increased fees for the use of other state owned authorities and enterprises.
• About one-fourth of the city’s property tax mill levy plus all of the mil levy for the Ouray Public Library has been de-Bruced, allowing the city and library to keep funds collected that were above the Tabor limit.
Amendment 60 would repeal the de-Brucing efforts of all these funds and force the city to incur the costs of elections to re-de-Bruce. Any funding source that does NOT pass this re-de-Brucing would have to reset its revenue maximum limits to the 1992 TABOR levels, meaning the city would have to return any income received that is over that. limit to “who knows who.”
• There are a number of homes owned by part-time residents to Ouray, some who might be here only one or two months out of the year. Provisions from this amendment allow for them to vote in any local election, having an impact on issues that might impact our school, property taxes, or any other important local issues.
• Because the provisions of this amendment allow citizens to sue a municipality or the State if they feel it isn’t enforcing the amendment, proponents of the amendment would be constantly harassing Ouray officials if they felt it was not being enforced to their satisfaction. This and the other two proposed initiatives are extremely complex and it will take a very long time to determine all their nuances. The cost in legal fees to Ouray could be significant if that occurs and could be a lawyer’s full-employment-for-life dream.
Covering Colorado’s proposed Referendum A in 2003 was the real starting point for Coyote Gulch. I had been blogging since 2002, mostly about state and local politics, but the water issue focus was due to the referendum.
At the same time I was buying a second home down in Montezuma County. When I talked to locals in Mesa Verde country about the referendum the quick answer was, “Water Grab.” There wasn’t much discussion but there was a lot of mistrust expressed about the politicians up in Denver and their plans. Many thought the referendum was a cover up for funding for the “Big Straw” that would move water from the Colorado River on the Utah border and dump it in the headwaters above the Front Range to feed more unbridled growth.
In his column in today’s Denver Post Ed Quillen looks back at some of the politicians that supported the referendum and what happened to them in their electoral careers. He writes:
Jane Norton, then the lieutenant governor, was a Referendum A supporter. And she lost the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. However, also on the supporter list was the fellow she lost to: “Ken Buck, Hensel Phelps Construction Company, Weld County.” I look forward to hearing him explain why he deserves to represent Colorado after he supported a big-spending big-government boondoggle that two-thirds of us opposed.
More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here. More Referendum A coverage here.