My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Symposium Topic, Final

Just to clean up the ballot. . .

Referendum 4A

This is a measure that would raise $158 million annually--eventually totaling upwards of $8 billion-- through taxes to expand the current light rail lines and other structural upgrades to the current RTD system. Opponents have cited the RTD goal of 1.4% reduction in rush hour traffic as an insignificant reduction, rendering the tax increase (cost) WAY too expensive for the impact (benefit). And I agree. 4A is too much money for too little effect.

Referendum 4B

This is a measure to continue a tax we are currently paying for the benefit of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District. In as much as I don't think I notice the tax as it is, and I think, all things considered, Denver does have a thriving cultural community in return. I think that is worth continuing--I voted "yes" on 4B.

Question 3A and 3B

I take these as a complete package, since they are for essentially the same thing--Jefferson County Public Schools. The first, 3A, would increase property taxes paid by JeffCO residents to increase funding for the school district's operational budget; 3B would raise $324 million for school reconstruction and new school construction. Regular readers of this space know that I am employed by this district, so you know that I have a personal stake in this issue. Nonetheless, this was actually a very difficult decision to come to. On the first issue, the school district passed a "Performance Promise" mil increase in 1998 which would have provide increasing funds for the school district as our performance increased, as measured by the CSAP test. We did not earn this additional money. Beyond that, there have been a number of financial scandals in the district in the last few years, including a $10 million "overspending" of the technology fund and a massive miscalculation of employees' taxes this past year which will end up costing many employees several hundred--even thousands--of dollars. On the second issue, the school district has built several new schools in the last couple years, and not a one of them is now filled to capacity; one wonders if more new ones aren't superfluous. Nonetheless, this district has many, many difficulties to deal with, and, as the News points out:

Among big metro-area districts, Jeffco has nearly the lowest per-student funding under the state School Finance Act. . .But Jeffco also falls short of other districts in additional funding approved by local voters. At $428, it is far behind Denver at $724 and Boulder Valley at $1,225.

What the News fails to point out is that, in the last round of CSAPs, the overall state averages were basically stagnant; if, however, you factor out the scores of JeffCO students, the state average drops between one and two points (some may quibble with this data--I am basing this off of the first set of reported tests last May). In other words, despite cutting $50 some million out of the budget the last three years, JeffCO has continued to outperform many of their colleagues around the state. At some point, the cuts will reach a critical mass and the district will be unable to provide even the most basic services, much less the vigorous and broad curriculum it now provides. So, reluctantly, I voted YES ON 3A and 3B.

The Amendments

34--NO. First of all, I am loath to amend the Constitution for any but the really good and necessary reasons--this is not one of them. Seriously??to remove caps on awards for settlements in cases of home construction? Even it were a good idea-which it isn't--this does not take an amendment.

35--YES. This is to raise the tax on tobacco products to be used for public health reasons. Again, in general I don't like amending the Constitution; however, given the extraordinary public costs of treating smoke-related illnesses, and given that this tax moves the burden of those costs away from the general public and on to the actual perpetrators, it strikes me as a good idea. Besides which, it may incentivise a change of behavior for a few people I care about.

36--NO. Ha ha ha ha. . . NO. This is the REALLY STUPID IDEA to permanently cripple Colorado's influence in the national election scene by dividing our electoral votes in a fashion proportional to the popular vote in our state, effectively reducing Colorado's EV to 1--one-third of North Dakota's. Did I mention. . .NO!!

37--NO. This amendment requires that at some future point 10% of all Colorado energy output be produced by renewable sources. Does anybody remember California in a heat wave? Suppose twenty years from now our growth forces a huge increase in the available energy; suppose also that we don't have the ability to increase our renewable output proportionally. What happens? Oh. . .we have to reduce our total output until the total of the renewables amounts to 10%. To do this, we would have to deny service--in other words, brownouts, rolling blackouts, and rationing. NO.

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